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Greek Students Protesting Over COVID-19 Tear Gassed by Police

ATHENS – Greek students occupying hundreds of schools across the country in protests over classrooms they said are overcrowded during the COVID-19 pandemic took their grievances to the streets in the capital and were dispersed with tear gas after the rally turned violent.

Brief clashes broke out near the Parliament in central Athens after students threw several gasoline bombs at police. Two protesters, aged 17 and 20, were arrested on public disturbance charges. No injuries were reported.

Several hundred people, including state school teachers and college students, took part in the protest which was mostly peaceful before the confrontation with police turned ugly.

The high school teachers union supported the protest even though classes in many schools have been stopped for days. The teachers want class sizes limited to 15 students, and demanded more teachers and school cleaners be hired.

The New Democracy government, which had tolerated the occupations but said students would have to resume classes online or be marked absent, said the average class size is 17.

The student sit-ins and protests are growing as the country has been hit with a second wave of the Coronavirus, the pandemic growing over the refusal of many people to wear masks and keep safe social distances, difficult in classrooms.

There were another 411 cases on Oct. 1, more than six months after the virus hit, including 272 in the greater Athens region, and two deaths, bringing the toll to 393.

Recent localized outbreaks concerning health officials include a nursing home in central Athens where dozens of elderly residents had to be hospitalized, and at several villages outside Athens where the transmission was linked to a funeral attended by about 200 people, in defiance of requirements limiting gatherings.

More restrictions were announced for two weeks on the island of Kythnos in the Cyclades, 145 kilometers (90 miles) southeast of Athens, that include compulsory use of facemasks outdoors and in most indoors areas.

The Migration and Asylum Ministry said the offices of its central asylum application service in Athens would remain shut for disinfection on Oct. 2 after a translator working for the service tested positive for COVID-19.

Greece’s Civil Protection Authority said it would hire 192 people on eight-month contracts to assist in efforts for coronavirus contact tracing and quarantine of positive cases. The authority issued a call for applications for Greek citizens under 40 with a college education to be deployed around Greece now.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

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