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Mitsotakis Seen Opting for Local Lockdowns to Slow COVID-19 Spread

Αssociated Press

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis arrives for an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels, Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys, Pool)

ATHENS – Hoping to avert a second national shutdown of non-essential businesses that could cripple hopes of a recovery, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis reportedly will impose local lockdowns of regions hardest hit by COVID-19.

With a week of rising cases that pushed close to the 2,000-daily mark, the New Democracy leader on Oct. 30 was set to announce a one-month action plan to hold down a second wave of the Coronavirus among other new measures.

That comes as three other areas, Rhodope, Larissa and the country's second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki had lockdowns ordered following spikes there, putting them in the official risk scale of Category 4.

The Health Ministry's advisory committee, made of up scientists and infectious diseases experts who aided Mitsotakis in bringing a March lockdown that held down the number of cases and deaths devised more measures, said Kathimerini.

Those were likely to include a closing time of 9 or 10 p.m. for bars and restaurants instead of midnight, which had been ordered earlier over the fierce resistance of their owners.

A public curfew already in effect from 12.30 to 5.30 a.m. in the worst-off regions, would begin an hour after the new closing time, meaning as early as 10 p.m. although it wasn't explained why people couldn't be infected before that.

Another possible measure for category 3 areas  - such as Attica and Athens – that are just below the lockdown level, would be confining residents to their regions while the mandatory use of face masks could be extended everywhere.

if conditions worsen, also on the table was a return to the system where people leaving their homes would have to send a text message to a government number to get permission on their phones or use written or downloaded forms showing they going only on permissible tripos such as to work, shop or a doctor. 

“As in the first phase, when we took action early on, we must take tougher measures again and earlier than other European countries to prevent the worst, save lives and reduce the pressure on the health system,” he told his ministers during a teleconference, the paper reported.

All gatherings in public and private spaces will be suspended. But Mitsotakis said shops and schools will remain open, the kind of half-measures that some critics including scientists have said don't work.

“I will say again that our goal remains to avoid a universal lockdown, so we will proceed to further strengthen the targeted restrictions,” he told the cabinet, adding that the measures will be imposed fully.

He said the next two weeks will be “crucial” and called on each ministry to ensure the implementation of the law, such as teleworking after recommending to businesses that they let workers whose jobs allow to do so from home too.

Mitsotakis said he believed Greece is two to three weeks behind other European countries in the development of the second wave of the pandemic which has already seen France lock down and Spain being battered again. 

There were 1,211 cases on Oct. 29 after a record-high 1,547 the day before but equally worrying to health authorities is the jumping number of deaths and how many people are being put on ventilators in hospital Intensive Care Units (ICU's) being pushed to the limit.

The National Organization for Public Health (EODY) said 12 people died in the 24 hours from its last bulletin and 114 coronavirus patients were intubated in intensive care, compared to 10 deaths reported and 108 intubations on Oct. 29.

The death toll is 615 while the total number of cases has risen rapidly to 35,510, quadrupling daily over August and September, with the virus spreading because some people are not wearing masks or keeping a safe social distance of at least 1.5 meters (4.92 feet) apart from each other if it's possible.