ATHENS — Greece’s government said Monday it will maintain core lockdown measures through the Christmas holidays, acknowledging that monthlong restrictions have not reduced COVID-19 cases to the extent it had hoped for.
Schools, courts, and restaurants will remain closed through Jan. 7, government spokesman Stelios Petsas announced, while non-essential travel between Greece’s administrative regions will also be banned.
Stay-at-home orders nationwide will remain in effect until that date, with movement outside only allowed with government permission — which can be granted by SMS text message.
Greece’s pandemic death toll reached 3,000 at the weekend, with most deaths occurring after Nov. 1.
The number of daily infections, based on a seven-day rolling average, is currently at 1,609 compared to 2,674 in mid-November, Petsas said.
Restrictions for stores, churches and hair salons will be announced later this week, Petsas said.
The current lockdown was launched on Nov. 7 and initially planned to last for three weeks.
More specifically, Petsas outlined the "road map" for a "gradual and safe" return to everyday life during a press briefing on Monday. Ηe noted that the pressure on the national health system remains great, despite a reduction of cases observed in recent days, and announced that, based on the recommendations of the committee of experts, the following has been decided:
– To keep schools closed until the morning of January 7, 2021 and to continue distance education until that time.
– That hospitality-sector and entertainment venues, courts and sports activities will remain closed until 6:00 in the morning of the same day, except those that continue to operate at present (Super League championship in football and basketball).
– Also, the measure prohibiting travel from prefecture to prefecture remains in force, while the measure prohibiting gatherings is extended and teleworking is to remain at the same percentages.
Regarding people's expectations for possible family gatherings over the Christmas holidays, he said that the health ministry's committee of health experts have proposed the avoidance of all extended family gatherings; yet, "Greeks should spend the holidays with their own family, or with only one other family – that is up to a maximum of nine people," he noted.
Greek authorities announced Sunday that new daily coronavirus cases dropped below 1,000 for the first time since Oct. 26.
There were 904 confirmed cases over the past 24 hours, along with 101 deaths, authorities said.
The total number of confirmed infections since the start of the pandemic is 115,471, with 3,003 deaths.
Despite a significant drop in cases over the past week, authorities have extended the countrywide lockdown to Dec. 14, but have allowed certain shops, including those selling Christmas-related merchandise, to open from Monday.
The number of patients on ventilators, at 600, was still close to all-time highs, straining the capacity of the national health system.