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Society

Crowds in Greece Set Off Local COVID-19 Lockdowns Warnings

ATHENS – It might come under the heading What Were They Expecting, but Greece's ruling New Democracy said it might re-institute local COVID-19 lockdowns, alarmed by scenes of people gathering in city squares, beaches and other spots after health restrictions were pulled back.

The easing of the already lenient lockdown, rendering it essentially moot, saw people bust out during warm spring weather, partying outside, massive crowds in shopping areas and restaurants and bars ignoring social distance requirements for outdoor service.

Noting the defiance, government spokeswoman Aristotelia Peloni said that it brought worry the pandemic that's being slowly beaten back will resurge and upset a recovery with tourists who are vaccinated or free of the Coronavirus coming.

To prevent that, she said that health restrictions could be tightened in some places without explaining how that could be enforced now that people are out and could resist any attempt to herd them back in.

She added that she hopes that the government’s appeals will be heard, otherwise “the local outbreaks will be dealt with properly,” said Kathimerini, although the government plan wasn't outlined.

There's also worry that ignoring the health rules could upset plans to further relax restrictions further, which was designed to persuade foreign visitors it's safe to come, their revenues desperately needed to bring a recovery.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis  said he's concerned too about the behavior of people even as the pandemic lingers and people are still getting ill, are in public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and perishing by the dozens daily.

“Many of our compatriots seem to believe that we are done for good with the pandemic, something that is, of course, not the case,” he said, the paper reported.

 “Of course, we are seeing a significant de-escalation in the number of cases, in hospital admissions and intubations, but the pandemic is still here,” he added.

He said this time he would be really strict about enforcing the law after he wasn't and let defiance slide over fears it would set off a backlash and even riots as happened in the neighborhood of Nea Smyrni earlier in the spring.

“Freedom does not mean irresponsibility,” he added, emphasizing that epidemiological data will determine the course of his government's actions, taking into account how restrictions are observed or not.

At the same meeting, infectious diseases expert Sotiris Tsiodras said he was concerned about the new COVID-19 variants which “are redefining the pandemic response strategies in many European countries,” and called for constant vigilance. “The epidemic continues to threaten us,” he said.

That was said as the death toll reached 11,471 on May 17, with 56 more fatalitis and as health authorities reported 1402 more cases, bringing the total over the last 14 months to 378,485.

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