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COVID-19 Loophole Lockdown Didn’t Work, Greece Goes Red Alert

ATHENS – After COVID-19 cases soared because people exploited a scheme allowing them to leave their homes for exercise during a third quasi-lockdown, the New Democracy government has tightened the restrictions.

The move came after many were granted permission on their cell phones to move outside their neighborhoods for exercise, which saw them driving around for other reasons, and others gathering in public.

The new measures will prohibit using cars to drive to other areas for alleged exercise which saw many cheating just to be in their cars for other missions, so many people out that Coronavirus cases skyrocketed.

Now only walking to a place for exercise will be allowed in residents’ own neighborhoods and Civil Protection chief Nikos Hardalias said that, permission to visit banks and supermarkets would only be permitted for a 2-kilometer (1.25-mile) radius of each person’s home.

The government’s advisory panel of doctors and scientists reacted with recommendations for more restrictive measures, seeing the daily number of infections per 100,000 jump to 15.7 as a seven-day rolling average, from 4.2 on Jan. 22.

Most residents in the country can only leave their homes using a number-categorized permission system, normally requested and granted via SMS on their cell phones.

Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said more private and military hospital facilities would be used in greater Athens, to free up more beds in the National Health System for Coronavirus treatment.

Bidding to contain a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic which is bearing down heavily on Attica’s hospitals, forcing the Health Ministry to activate an emergency plan, the government severely restricted travel between municipalities for food purchases and physical exercise.

Until at least March 15, people can circulate with the SMS system using the number 2 for essential goods purchases and 3 to go to the bank only within their municipality within the limited distance.

Movements with the number 6 can only be done on foot or bicycle, while in cases where people use number 4 to provide assistance, they will be asked to prove that’s where they’re going, said Kathimerini.

Designed as “Deep Red” areas with high numbers of cases were Attica, Thessaloniki, Achaia, Arcadia, Larissa, Lefkada, Fthiotida, Argolida, Corinth, Thesprotia, Arta, Samos, Viotia, Chios, Aitoloakarnania, Rhodes, Iraklio, Evia and Kalymnos. The rest of the country is classified as at high risk, or “red.”

A traffic ban ban in “deep red” areas will run from 7 p.m. until 5 a.m., except Attica and Thessaloniki, where on weekdays it is from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. and 7 p.m to 5 .a.m. on weekends. Weddings, baptisms and memorials have been suspended in “deep red” areas for now.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

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