ATHENS – With a requirement that shoppers and workers in Greek supermarkets wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 widely being ignored or not enforced, the New Democracy government is looking at making wearing them mandatory in more public spaces to stem a slow rise in cases.
“The rise in infections in urban centers reminds us that the virus is still here,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas said, reported Kathimerini.
He said the “enemy” in the fight against the coronavirus is within, pointing to relaxed attitudes about safety measures after a 10-week lockdown in March that was gradually lifted held down the cases and fatalities.
But with people crowding bars and tavernas and not wearing masks indoors in many places, the government is scrambling to find some way to get people to comply, with no reports of fines or prosecutions of offenders, including businesses.
The government banned village festivals and imposed the required wearing of masks in supermarkets but people are being admitted without them in some places, unchecked at the door by monitors.
“In the next few days, if it is deemed necessary, the use of a mask will be made mandatory in more enclosed (public) spaces,” Petsas added, witrout explaining if they would be enforced.
Medical and scientific experts on the advisory body that recommended the early lockdown said masks are a critical way to prevent the spread of the virus that is still lingering, and more cases brought by tourists.
Another 35 infections – including 17 in Attica – were confirmed July 27 raising the total number to 4,227, bringing worry about a creeping climb apparently brought by people defying health protocols especially with the inability to track and trace contacts.
The committee has already expressed its position that the mask is a key tool in the fight against Coronavirus and that it does not affect our lives, in the sense that it is not a restrictive measure,” Alkiviadis Vatopoulos, professor of microbiology at the University of Western Attica told the newspaper.
Vatopoulos, who is a member of the committee, said Greece’s epidemiological picture, based on data from the National Organization for Public Health (EODY), points to a greater circulation of the virus that the actual case numbers would suggest, and especially in Attica, around Athens.
“I would like to see masks being made mandatory in almost all public spaces,” said Athina Linou, an epidemiology professor at the University of Athens, speaking to Thema 104.6 radio. “I find our behavior frightening. Whatever the imported cases, if we follow the rules, there the spread will be contained,” she said.