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Society

Greek Islands Pandemic Warning: Restaurants Flout COVID-19 Rules

ATHENS – With scenes showing restaurants ignoring social distance requirements for outside dining – and some already allowing inside dining that's another violation – Greece's New Democracy government is keeping an eye on whether there will be another COVID-19 outbreak on islands.

The government is counting on tourists who are allowed – if they're vaccinated or Coronvirus-free – and said it would inoculate all the residents of 85 islands by the end of June to creates eases free of COVID-19 and convince foreign travelers to come.

But Deputy Minister of Civil Protection and Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias said if the remaining restrictions under an lockdown that's essentially over are disregarded that it could bring disaster to the islands.

“Nothing is over and it will be disastrous to have local outbreaks, let alone on the islands, let alone in tourist destinations,” he said during a visit to the Ionian island of Corfu, stressing that the public must wear masks, observe physical distancing and avoid unnecessary gatherings.

“This is a recommendation, a request to everyone. We must all set a good example. I am appealing to everyone to please observe measures,” he added while calling on people to get vaccinated, said Kathimerini.

“The important thing is to return to normalcy step by step. To do this two things are needed, to build a wall of immunity through vaccinations,” he said, with just two million of the country's population of 10.7 million fully vaccinated so far.

That's less than 20 percent and health officials said a benchmark of 70 percent, or 7.49 million, must be met to beat back the pandemic, the government saying it can hit that mark by the end of July if enough vaccines are available from the European Union.

With scenes of public gatherings, wild parties in public squares and along waterfront walkways and promenades and beaches packed, many restaurants desperate for customers are violating rules to fill their tables.

In Thessaloniki only two restaurants were fined a total of 5,000 euros ($6,096) for violations, one of them with a 3,000-euro ($3658) penalty and ordered to close for 15 days for serving two customers inside, which can be seen at other eateries too.

The customers were also fined 300 euros ($366) each for eating indoors while the other fine, for 2,000 euros ($2439) was imposed on a cafe-bar owner for playing music, which isn't allowed yet.

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