ATHENS – Trying to put the genie back in the lamp after the government pulled back most COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, Greek police will be going after restaurant and bar owners who violated rules by allowing overcrowding.
Scenes showed widespread breaking of the health restrictions and people returning to near-normal life, including shunning masks and packing tables and public gathering places, especially restaurants that offer outdoor services for now.
Police will focus on nightlife areas and tourist and leisure spots which had been opened to attract people but now will see squads of officers enforcing the rules, which could bring fines to violators although it wasn't said if that includes foreign visitors who are supposed by abide by them.
The Hellenic Police on May 17 said they had found 780 violations and made 19 arrests over the weekend when the curfew was pushed back from 11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.to benefit the restaurants and bars.
That opened the gates to hordes of people acting as if there were no remaining restrictions, overwhelming eateries and partying wild in public gathering spots across Athens, mostly unchecked by the authorities.
The same happened in the country's second-and-third largest cities, the northern port of Thessaloniki and Patra on the west coast, and on the islands, people shaking off the pandemic fears and health rules to go crazy.
Police said most of the violations were for not wearing masks or staying the required distance of at least 1.5 meters (4.92 feet) apart although that's impossible in crowded areas such as Athens' main Syntagma Square and the major shopping area of Ermou Street and surrounding areas.
More than 100 businesses were heavily fined or temporarily shut down for violating regulations that for now only allow outdoor seating at safe distances although restaurants and bars can reopen indoors as of June 1.