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COVID-19 Rising, Greece Ready to Halt Public Gatherings, Cultural Events

September 18, 2020

ATHENS – With COVID-19 spiraling during a second wave after defiance of health protocols and tourists bringing infections into the country, Greece's New Democracy government is set to impose a targetedtwo-week lockdown on public gathering and cultural events in hot spots.

It would be limited to areas with the most new infections, said Kathimerini, as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said, “I am fully prepared, following the relevant suggestion of the committee … to take some additional measures regarding public gatherings, the suspension of cultural events for 14 days, measures that encourage teleworking in both the public and private sectors, in order to limit unnecessary commuting.”

That came during a regular teleconference discussing developments with the Coronavirus that was broadcast on the state broadcaster ERT with worry rising the pandemic will keep getting worse, six months in.

Mitsotakis said that if people implement the measures the government has taken, the situation will improve but while there's been greater acceptance of wearing masks and staying safe social distances there is still resistance.

"But to be certain that we will do well, we must first focus on implementing the measures," he said after the government had just earlier said masks would have to be worn even outdoors where people gather, such as open air markets.

He then urged citizens to uphold the health and social distancing rules that have already been announced so as to avoid taking tougher measures in the future, repeating a message that had been widely ignored during the summer, leading to cases getting out of control and daily surpassing 300.

“Our concern must be the protection of the elderly,” he said and appealed to senior citizens and those with underlying illnesses to be “doubly careful” when going outside and that masks are critical on public transportation.

He said he was especially concerned over the growing number of people who need to be put into Intensive Care Units (ICU's) and on ventilators, another 69 on Sept. 17, but said so far that public hospitals, who had added ventilators with the help of the Diaspora and philanthropists, are coping. 

Health authorities on Sept. 17 announced 359 cases and nine deaths, 212 cases in Attica around the Greek capital, bringing the total to 14,400 with the fatalities bringing the grim toll to 325.

The National Organization for Public Health’s (EODY) daily bulletin was especially pessimistic about the country's ability to deal with the pandemic after an early lockdown in March that was gradually lifted in May had worked to hold down the Coronavirus.

Of the new cases, 36 were imported and 21 linked to known outbreaks, indicating a high rate of community transmission, a particularly troubling sign to the scientists and epidemiologists advising Mitsotakis, who listens to them.

Government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters that authorities were “adjusting to a dynamic phenomenon and will take any measures necessary.” “The next few months will be difficult,” Petsas said. “We should all take care to observe the measures recommended by experts and put a stop to the increase in cases we’ve seen over the past few days,” but many aren't listening.

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