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Society

Greece COVID-19 Cases Near 20,000, Universities Reopen – With Masks

ATHENS – Reluctant to order a second lockdown, Greece's New Democracy government is trying tighter measures to contain COVID-19 after another 229 cases were reported on Oct. 5, bringing the total to 19,842.

There were four deaths, the grim toll reaching 409, with 82 patients on ventilators and the government hoping extending the requirement to wear masks in outdoor public gathering areas will slow the spread.

Especially worrisome too is the growing number of patients put on ventilators in Intensive Care Units (ICU's) which had been bolstered during the pandemic, now seven months long and showing no signs of slowing with flu season about to hit.

A Health Ministry expert said while people largely abide by the face mask and social distancing rules during the day, they largely ignore them at nights and this has helped fuel the rise in cases: about of 80 percent of cases came in the last two months.

Classes resumed Oct. 5 at universities and other higher education institutes across the country, everyone required to wear masks in all areas at all times, and a mixed system both physical and online classes, seminars and laboratories.

Physical attendance with masks and the necessary social distancing will be in place for classes and labs with up to 50 participants, while lectures and other events with more than number will be held remotely.

Talking to the state-run news Athens-Macedonia News Agency (ANA-MPA) Deputy Education Minister for tertiary education Vasilis Digalakis said that there was now a new reality due to the pandemic "and we are obliged to adapt to the different but necessary conditions that this imposes."

"The live discussion and interaction that takes place in amphitheatres cannot be fully replaced by remote education and neither do we want students to be cut off from the overall experience of studying at a higher educational institute. It is, therefore, worth deliberately and responsibly guarding the safe and normal running of the new academic year," he also said.

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