ATHENS – No music, no standing, no more than six people at a table. Wearing masks inside. Staying six feet apart. No parties. If you have a sniffle, stay home.
Happy New Year.
In a bid to save celebrations and hold down the skyrocketing record-busing number of cases of COVID-19 driven by the Omicron Variant, Greece’s New Democracy government will allow a restricted New Year’s Even to go on.
There will be limits in place, with no explanation how they can be enforced and that night will be exempt from a requirement just implemented requiring restaurants, bars, taverns and nightclubs to close at midnight.
That will be extended to 2 a.m. so that people out celebrating can ring in a new year that, after March, will mark the third of the pandemic and no end in sight and the government vacillating on how to deal with it.
After cases approached 30,000 a day, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis – who backed off a pledge to consider mandatory vaccinations if the health crisis worsened – has gone back and forth between easing and tightening restrictions.
He was under pressure from restaurateurs and eatery owners who said closing them down on New Year’s Eve would be ruinous for a sector already almost devastated by lockdowns and health measures limiting customers, especially the unvaccinated who allegedly aren’t allowed in.
There were repeated revisions to what measures would be in place – and when – with tighter restrictions beginning Dec. 30 instead of Jan. 3, based on the recommendations of the government’s advisory panel of doctors and scientists, whose suggestions had sometimes been rejected.
Health Minister Thanos Plevris, who has no experience in the field, announced the new round of conditions aimed at creating a firewall against the further spread of the Coronavirus, mostly by the unvaccinated.
It wasn’t said what will happen if clubs or other venues ignore the ban on music being played on New Year’s Eve nor if popular singer Saki Rouvas, who is being paid 215,000 euros ($243,262) for a 17-minute appearance would go on.
Plevris clarified that any organized parties, at private or rented public spaces, are banned, said Kathimerini in a report on the plans that include requirements for catering and entertainment business staff to wear enhanced protection masks or double masks, and in supermarkets too.
As of now, up to 50 percent of public and private employees will have to work from home and sports venues will be limited to 10 percent seating with a maximum of 1,000 people.
Plevris also said the idea of mandatory vaccinations for those apart from health care workers, already in place, and for those over 60 years old, which begins Jan. 16, 2022, would be considered.
“We believe that if the measures are strictly applied up to mid-January, this will allow us to resume our normal lives,” Plevris said.
He also added anyone with the mildest symptoms that mimic a cold or had been in a crowded place, should consider themselves infected or carrying COVID as a precaution and not to attend family gatherings that include the elderly.