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Society

Greece Set for Another Lockdown if COVID-19 Keeps Rising

ATHENS – As tighter measures began Nov. 2, including closing restaurants, theaters and cinemas and curfews for the country's hardest-hit regions, a second national lockdown is looming in Greece if cases of COVID-19 don't subside.

It's already in place in the country's second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki as new measures began because too many people weren't wearing masks or staying a safe social distance and the New Democracy government, trying to avoid an economic hit, let nightclubs and public gathering spots stay open.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, applauded for an early lockdown in March that lasted up to 10 weeks and held down the number of cases and deaths, is reluctantly considering another full shutdown, said Kathimerini.

The government and its scientific and medical advisory committee will be carefully watching the effects of tighter measures although schools, supermarkets, banks and retail shops will stay open.

With a big jump in cases, deaths and the number of people needing to be put on ventilators in public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) threatening to be overwhelmed, fear for public safety is overriding worries about the economy.

There are regional lockdowns as well in Kastoria, Kozani and the Serres region as well as Thessaloniki and the Macedonia area around the city, with signs other parts of the country won't be able to cope.

In lockdown areas, citizens must send a text message to the General Secretariat for Civil Protection, citing their reason for leaving their home as was done during an even tighter first lockdown.

A public curfew will apply from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. During those times, people will only be able to leave the house for health or work reasons, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said. 

All non-essential flights to and from Thessaloniki will be suspended after cases jumped markedly, the city earlier having shown open defiance of health measures during the first lockdown. 

There is particular concern about whether greater Athens might have “hidden infections” due to its large population, and because there is no track-and-trace widespread program using mobile phones.

On Nov. 1, the number of COVID-19 patients being intubated hit 153 with ICU units at 60 percent capacity, although 100 percent in western Macedonia and higher in other areas. Thessaloniki had only 28 beds available.

The government had used the pandemic, now more than seven months long, to beef up the number of ICU units and ventilators, with the help of the Diaspora and a few philanthropists, apart from shipping oligarchs who have done next to nothing to help their country, as they didn't during the economic crisis. 

Officials announced 1,152 more infections on Nov. 2, bringing the total to 42,080 while seven deaths raised that grim toll to 642.

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