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Society

Flocking Greeks Drive More COVID-19 Cases During 3d Lockdown

February 28, 2021

ATHENS – Getting around restrictions in a third supposed tougher third lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, Greeks are taking to public areas in droves, even outside their neighborhoods.

While non-essential businesses continue to stay closed after the quasi-lockdown was extended past the initial March 1 lifting, people are using an allowed permission for exercise to leave their homes.

Street traffic is also near normal and Greek TV has shown huge crowds on Thessaloniki’s waterfront promenade, the country’s second-largest city driving cases so high with health measure defiances in November, 2020 that a second lockdown was brought, too late.

There were another 1,360 cases on Feb. 27, 29 deaths and 379 people on ventilators in public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) as the New Democracy government still hasn’t moved, as promised, to use private hospitals if needed.

The new figures published by the National Organization for Public Health (EODY) pushed the death toll to 6,468 and total cases to 189,83, the government speeding a slow rollout of a vaccination campaign.

More than 32,000 first shots – two are required three weeks apart – were given, bringing the total to 826,000 in a country of 10.7 million people, with health authorities saying that at least 70 percent of the population, or some 7.35 million people, need to be inoculated to slow the pandemic.

EODY also said that authorities have conducted 3,631,831 PCR tests and 1,577,701 rapid antigen tests since the start of the epidemic in Greece.

But in a feature, Politico’s Nektaria Stamouli reported that Greeks across the spectrum, from Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on down, are flaunting the lockdown through loopholes or outright defiance.

Politicians have also used their office, the report said, for preferential treatment for the vaccine, including George Hatzimarkis from New Democracy, who is Governor of the Southern Aegean islands.

She said he went to the tiny island of Chalki to get vaccinated, jumping to the front of the line over others, including the elderly, health care workers and people with multiple or underlying conditions, leaving them without shots.

Hatzimarkos justified his actions by saying he was on Chalki for business and was “informed that the vaccination process of the island residents has been completed and there were unused doses left, which … had to be used.”

He said he “received the assurance that no resident of the island who wished to be vaccinated was left out,” the report said, adding that the doctor in charge of the island’s clinic, Athina Arvanitidou, said he planned to get it there.

Local opposition politicians said that at least two people were left unvaccinated on the island, as there were no jabs left, and accused the Governor of “provocative behavior,” said local lawmaker Nektarios Santorinios from the major opposition SYRIZA.

Thessaloniki Mayor Konstantinos Zervas, called for the resignation of deputy mayor Dimitra Akritidou and Municipal Council President Drossos Tsavlis, after it was revealed they helped 24 people jump the queue to get shots, leading to New Democracy suspending them.

SYRIZA told the site in a statement that New Democracy had “reached the point of illegally vaccinating 24 executives in Thessaloniki with vaccines intended for young children with disabilities.”

In December, Mitsotakis and SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras got shots in what they said was intended to prove the vaccines were safe and effective to a cynical population.

But that quickly was extended from an initial list of 45 politically-connected officials to 126, the names not revealed, before it was cut back to 66 after some of those getting shots posted selfies boasting they were inoculated.

Tsipras hasn’t escaped criticism, backing public gatherings in protests against New Democracy in violation of COVID-19 health measures, which he tried to defend as necessary, if dangerous.

“I accept that there is a risk (of the virus spreading) and that is why I believe that it would be right for the government not to bring such bills that provoke significant social reactions during a state of emergency, amidst a pandemic,” he said in justification for urging people to break the law.

Greek Church clerics also have been seen holding services without wearing masks and some urging the faithful not to use them either although they are required in public.

“The church showed disobedience and the government showed tolerance,” said Metropolitan Athenagoras, spokesperson for the Holy Synod.

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