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Politics

COVID-19 Soaring, Greece Locks Down Again for Three Weeks

ATHENS – The surging second wave of COVID-19 that was breaking records daily drove Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis to impose a second lockdown on Greece beginning Nov. 7, for three weeks.

He had been reluctant to close non-essential businesses again as he did in March for up to 10 weeks, winning plaudits for holding down the number of cases and deaths, but worried now the economy wouldn't survive.

It was the numbers that gave him no option, with his scientific and medical advisory committee worried the pandemic was spinning out of control and would overwhelm public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and there wouldn't be enough ventilators for the most critically ill.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced on Thursday a three-week nationwide lockdown in an effort to stop an “aggressive” jump in infections, a rise in intubations and entries in intensive care units.

All retail stores will close and travel between regions will be banned while authorities will reintroduce a system obliging citizens to send text messages to a government number to leave home to work, shop, visit a doctor or take exercise, said Kathimerini.

But while high schools will close and go to distance learning again, kindergartens and elementary schools will stay open with no explanation why they weren't being closed for now as well.

“Once again, I choose to take measures sooner rather than later,” Mitsotakis said in a televised address to the nation, adding he acting on the advice of his experts who have been monitoring the rapid rise.

He said the unstoppable surge forced him to take more restrictive measures after extending the use of masks to public gathering areas even outdoors didn't work, with many people still not keeping safe social distances from each other.

If the government waited and current measures didn't work, the pressure on hospitals would be “unbearable,” he said, only a couple of days after he said it was manageable before it wasn't.

He also said the government will support financially citizens who will be affected by the new lockdown, with the Finance Ministry working on a plan. In the first lockdown the government provided 17.5 billion euros ($20.65 billion) in aid for workers temporarily laid off and to their businesses to stay afloat while shut.

Infectious diseases professor Sotiris Tsiodras presented data from the last few weeks showing the massive rise in infection numbers. "The virus is here" and the fight against it continues, he said, as worry mounts.

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