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More Greek Regions Under High Alert as Lockdown Measures Extended

ATHENS – Current lockdown measures are extended through March 22 in the regions of Attica and Thessaloniki, along with several more regions across the country, as announced by Deputy Minister for Civil Protection & Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias at Friday's regular live briefing on the pandemic's course in Greece.

The following regions and municipalities will enter high alert status as of 06:00 on Saturday through March 22: the regions of Chalkidiki, Evritania and Lesvos, and the municipalities of Ioannina and Metsovo (Epirus), Katerini (Macedonia), Chania (Crete), and Skiathos (Sporades islands). 

Due to the rising trend in new coronavirus infections, the following regions and municipalities will remain in high epidemiological alert to March 22: the regions of Etoloakarnania, Achaia, Boeotia, Evia (except Skyros island), Fthiotida, Fokida, Argolida, Arcadia, Corinth, Arta, Thesprotia, Samos, Lefkada (except Meganisi municipality), and the municipalities of Heraklion and Anogia (Crete), Kalymnos, Rhodes, and of Chios.

Hardalias also reminded the public that movement restrictions will remain in place on Clean Monday ('Kathara Deftera', first day of Greek Orthodox Lent), traditionally a kite-flying day. Although the kite flying is not forbidden, it must be done within the city limits or a 2km radius from home, he reiterated, while overnight curfews will stay in effect nationwide. 

The closure of schools is extended to March 29, across all grades and throughout the entire country. The few schools that had stayed open in areas of low epidemiological burden will shut down too on March 16 through March 29, as all areas in Greece are now considered high-alert.

Registries of deeds (Ypothikofylakia) will reopen as of Tuesday March 16, by appointment only, the minister added.

Infections rising in large cities

Novel coronavirus infections in Greece appear to be rising in large cities and densely populated areas despite stricter measures, pediatrician of infectious diseases and member of the specialists committee at the Health Ministry Vana Papaevangelou said at the briefing.

She said the rolling average of new infections on a 7-day basis is 2,100 cases, while the rate of positive results in testing has risen to 4.5 pct nationally and to 7 pct in Attica. (Comparatively, the rate of positive results early in January 2021 was under 4 pct and considered good.) 

There are a total of 20,000 active infections, half of which are located in Attica Region. The leading age group is that of 25-55 years, or the most active segment of the population.

The doctor also noted a significant rise in Piraeus as well.

As for hospital admissions, from 400 per day they rose to 500 per day in the last two days, "which has put the health system under great pressure." Attica Region beds in ICUs dedicated to Covid-19 cases have a 92 pct occupancy, she underlined.

The good news relates to vaccinations, as the significant drop of hospitalizations for those over 80 years shows, while she also noted that there is no directive to interrupt vaccinations with AstraZeneca's vaccine. 

Fellow infectious diseases specialist and committee member Gkikas Magiorkinis said the spike in infections is approaching November rates, while the pressure on the health system will continue for two or three more weeks.

Magiorkinis also called on the public to observe measures more faithfully and reduce contacts, while he also noted that things would improve as of this coming Thursday.

Greece will not need Russian or Chinese vaccines

Greece has guaranteed enough vaccines for its population and will not need to resort to Russian or Chinese vaccines, Alternate Health Minister Vassilis Kontozamanis said on Friday.

Responding to a question in Parliament concerning vaccinations on Crete, by Movement for Change (KINAL) MP Vassilis Kegeroglou, he said that Greece is expecting to receive at least 7 million doses in the second quarter of 2021 and over 10 million in the second half of 2021.

In addition, Greece could not use the Russian or Chinese vaccines because they have not been approved by the EU regulator so far, the European Medicines Organization, he said.

As for Crete, Kontozamanis said there are 22 vaccination centers active on the island, with 40 queues. The centers and queues will rise to 29 and 47, respectively as of March 16. So far, 71,642 vaccinations have been carried out on Crete.

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