ATHENS – Scaling back COVID-19 health restrictions so much they’re almost not being applied has brought worry that family celebrations and Easter congregations could bring the pandemic even harder.
The New Democracy government, keen on accelerating an economic recovery at the start of COVID’s third year, lifted most restrictions and on June 1 won’t require masks, while giving anti-vaxxers almost the same privileges as the vaccinated.
“We have significant freedoms compared to last year… but freedoms does not mean that we are finished with the pandemic and need not abide by the measures,” Dimitrios Paraskevis, an Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Athens University’s Medical School and Vice-President of National Public Health Organization (EODY) told Kathimerini.
Similar warnings from the government’s advisory panel of doctors and scientists have sometimes been set aside in the rush for a financial comeback and with scenes of near normal resuming, although some measures remain.
“Last year, travel between different regional units was prohibited, restaurants were closed and the Resurrection (celebration) took place only in the churchyards,” Paraskevis, said no major restrictions this year.
“Even the unvaccinated can, with a rapid test, have access to open venues of entertainment, movement is free, we are mostly vaccinated, there is the possibility of a fourth dose for the most vulnerable groups of the population, we have vaccine adequacy and a large proportion of the population is immune,” he said.
He recommended people obey the few measures still left in place although there are scenes at public gathering spots where they aren’t and no report whether restaurants, bars and taverns are checking anyone for vaccine documents.
Remaining measures require a certificate of vaccination or recovery or a negative test (molecular or rapid) to travel by ship, airplane, train or bus, while the use of a face mask is still mandatory in indoor public settings.
A certificate or test is also needed for hotels and short-term rentals and allegedly for entry to churches, where masks are required and people are supposed to stay at least 1.5 meters (4.92 feet) apart, no word how that would happen at packed Good Friday and Easter services.
Priests and chanters are exempted from the use of the mask exclusively during the religious ceremony although in the past it was said singing could spread the Coronavirus that’s more transmissible that way.
If there are masses of people outside churches who can’t get in they are supposed to wear masks as well as during the procession fo the Epitaph that traditionally sees throngs of people clustered while marching.
Most of the restrictions will be lifted after the Easter break and be reviewed again in September if the policy of leniency brings the pandemic back and sees a resurgence in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.