ATHENS – Scenes of busy streets and highways on the first weekday of what was supposed to be a COVID-19 lockdown spurred the New Democracy goverment to say it would go after those abusing exemptions allowing them to be out in Greece.
Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said there were be stricter inspections by police and authorities to see if people are citing reasons for permissible missions to be out on other business to get around the lockdown.
That came after officials got more than one million text requests after the 9 p.m. curfew time on Nov. 8 from people who said they would be walking their dogs or taking a walk, raising suspicion they weren't.
“Instead of having to pay fines, everyone is urged to abide with instructions so that we exit the lockdown as quickly as possible,” he said, the second closing of non-essential businesses and people otherwise restricted to their homes set to go on until Dec. 1.
Streets in many parts of Athens were much busier on the first weekday of the new lockdown Nov. 9 than the first lockdown in March when they were essentially empty.
Police said that 70 percent of motorists who were stopped and questioned as to why they were circulating claimed to be going to work and the remaining 30 percent said they were carrying out errands for someone in need of help.
“Traffic was indeed much heavier than it was during the spring lockdown, but that said, teleworking has not gained ground and elementary schools are still open. This is why the phenomenon eased after people got to work and school had started,” a Hellenic Police (ELAS) official told Kathimerini.
Some 35 Traffic Police teams at key points in and around the Greek capital recorded more than 100 violations of restrictions on the movement of motorists as people must have permission on their phones, a form downloaded from the Internet or written by hand explaining why they are out.
Checks for violations concerning the mandatory use of masks in public led to 248 fines being issued, the penalty for which was doubled to 300 euros ($350.10) but still seeing defiance.
“We don’t like having to write up citizens, especially now that the fine has been doubled. However, we cannot tolerate a small proportion of people who do not abide by the rules being responsible for spreading the virus,” an officer at ELAS’ emergency dispatch who wasn't named told the paper.
On the first full day of the lockdown on Nov. 8 police conducted more than 58,000 checks that yielded 848 violations of restrictions on movement, of which 297 were in Attica and 72 in the northern port city of Thessaloniki while there were also 740 fines for not wearing masks even while outdoors.