ATHENS — Greece has extended a two-month lockdown by at least one week, through Jan. 18, and announced plans Friday to increase the number of people getting COVID-19 vaccines from 5,000 per day to 8,000 per day.
The government had imposed tougher week-long restrictions ahead of opening primary schools this week, including suspending store pick-ups of online purchases ("click-away").
Deputy Civil Protection Minister for Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias said that church services will be held without the presence of the faithful, while individuals may go to church to pray by keeping established measures (including wearing masks and observing social distancing), while funerals may only include a maximum of 9 people, all of whom must be first-degree relatives.
In addition, fishing and hunting is still banned, visits to civil services is limited to emergency ones and only after appointment, while courts will continue to operate but on a very limited basis.
When Super League 2 and Volley League games start on the weekend of January 16-17, there will be no public attendance of games, the minister said, following Super League 1 restrictions.
In addition, all visitors to Greece through January 21, from all countries including the EU's, are obliged to self-isolate at homes or housing facilities for seven days. The requirement to present a coronavirus-free test carried out at most 72 hours before arriving in Greece still stands.
Passengers of flights from abroad will be randomly tested with a rapid test, except for visitors from the United Kingdom, who will all submit to being tested on arrival in Greece. Visitors from the UK, in particular, must submit to a new PCR test when they complete the seven-day isolation in order to be allowed to leave the facility they are at.
All passengers arriving in Greece from abroad must complete the PLF form.
In terms of schools, Hardalias reiterated that pre-kingergarten, kindergartens, primary schools and special needs schools of all levels will open on Monday, January 11. All but the special needs schools will also open in areas under stricter lockdown measures, he said.
Government officials have indicated a willingness to maintain the lockdown measures for a longer period. Greece launched its COVID-19 vaccination program in late December.
So far, nearly 35,000 people have received a first dose of a two-shot vaccine, according to government statistics. Greece has a population of around 11 million and has reported more than 143,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 5,195 deaths.
After maintaining a low infection rate earlier in the year, the country saw a huge spike in cases in the fall. More than 85% of Greece's pandemic deaths took place after Nov. 1.