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Greeks Begin Day One of COVID-19 Lockdown Easing Off

ATHENS – May 4 dawned with the prospect of people in Greece being able to get out of their homes more freely after a 43-day tight lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, but cautiously.

The stay at home order was being pulled back gradually because of the effectiveness of the lockdown that gave Greece one of the best records in the world for dealing with the deadly pandemic, holding down cases and deaths.

People had been not allowed out except for permissible reasons such as going to supermarkets, banks, pharmacies, doctors, hospitals, banks, walking pets, taking brief exercise or going to essential businesses allowed to stay open.

The first day of the easing saw small retail stories and hairdressers allowed to open while businesses who violated the lockdown order were fined up to 5,000 euros ($5465) and facing jail time.

During the lockdown people going out for allowed trips had to have permission in the form of a document downloaded from the Internet, on their cell phones or written out by hand stating where they were going, the time and required to carry identification.

Now there will be more movement allowed as staggered reopenings later see restaurants and taverns and bigger stores allowed to operate, and with year-round hotels starting up again on June 1 as Greece hopes for some kind of summer tourism. 

The New Democracy government, encouraged by the lockdown results and the general wide compliance by Greeks notorious for defiance is said to be looking at allowing more reopenings faster than first planned, said Kathimerini.

High school students will return to classes on May 11, seniors needing to prepare for university entrance exams and if the virus does not resurge people could be allowed to travel outside their prefecture and possibly to islands and villages.

The government is set to allow free movement on the mainland on May 18, anxious for domestic tourism to help fill a tiny part of the gap caused by the loss of foreign tourists with international air traffic still not in full swing. 

For now, the paper said, free movement on the islands will be allowed as of June 1 when hotels and restaurants and cafes open again, although those establishments will not be allowed to use inside seating and will have to follow social distancing requirements and keep tables further apart and adopt tight hygiene protocols.

If there are no health risks and the virus is held down that free movement could happen a week earlier, on May 25, the paper said, which would then allow a faster reopening of other establishments as well.

Seasonal hotels that are scheduled to open in early July could open in mid-June but it's uncertain now whether elementary schools will open again until the fall after the major rival Radical Left SYRIZA said it was too dangerous for children, challenging New Democracy's school reopenings for that level.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he will continue to be guided by medical and scientific experts and not act politically as US President Donald Trump has to help his hopes for reelection in the autumn despite the huge death toll after he was accused of reacting too slowly to the pandemic, unlike Greece. 

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