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Greek Police Gird to Stop Easter Travel During COVID-19 Restrictions

ATHENS — Hopes for travel to their villages during the Easter weekend dashed because of the lingering COVID-19 pandemic – for the second year in a row – Greeks who try to get there without permission could run into police checks.

Patrols and inspections at highway toll areas are being planned to check people trying to travel outside their region without an allowed reason, said Kathimerini, with violators facing big fines.

Many Greeks traditionally flee the cities for their family villages to celebrate Easter, the most sacred holiday of the year – even more than Christmas – and expectations were high it would be allowed this year.

Anticipating some may try to defy the ban on the travel, Greece's New Democracy government plans to deploy the police at key spots to hunt for violators, and will also use helicopters and drones feature side road stops.

There are exceptions to the bar on travel, including for those living in cities who need to tend to crops or animals or if a second home needs repair but they will be required to show documents of proof beyond their word.

But there's a loophole that will reward successful violators, the paper said: if they evade the cops and make it to their villages they will be allowed to return home without penalty because going a main residence is an exemption.

“Inspections will be strict, not only in Attica, but throughout the country,” police officials told state run Athens-Macedonia news agency ANA-MPA. 

“More than 10,000 police are involved. It shouldn’t be possible for some to present documents about farm work or medical visits so they can pass and have their whole family and baggage with them,” an officer added. 

“If you try to present fake documents, in addition to high fines you may face additional sanctions,” police said of their plans.

The government on Friday published the Joint Ministerial Decision that extends emergency travel restrictions between regions in Greece to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus until 6:00 in the morning on May 10.

The measure extends the current ban on travel outside the local regional unit by any means of transport, except for reasons of work (which has to be certified by the necessary documentation in the Ergani system) and for specific exceptions (health, funerals, return to permanent residence, parental contact in the case of divorce).

Specifically for Attica, the ban applies to movement outside the region's boundaries and to the regional unit of the islands.

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