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Politics

Rival Parties Say New Democracy Hiding COVID-19 Cases on Islands

ATHENS – Greek opposition parties, including the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA and the KKE Communists said the New Democracy government doesn't want the public to know how many COVID-19 cases there are on islands, where wild partying on places such as Mykonos have created new hot spots.

SYRIZA lawmaker Yiannis Ragousis cited a claim by the Federation of Hospital Doctors that the government was following “concealment tactics” over its decision to announce cases per regional unit rather than per island, said Kathimerini.

Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias admitted that approach was being taken to prevent singling out islands with big numbers of infections, which Ragousis said was a “confession of guilt,” by the government.

“The crude excuse that they allegedly did not want to target specific islands cannot convince anyone simply because, when they suddenly imposed emergency measures, they imposed them per island and not per regional unit,” he said. 

There was no word from the celebrated infectious diseases expert and University of Athens Professor, Dr. Sotiris Tsiodras, who led a scientific team that advised the early lockdown and who has continued to urge vigilance in the face of widespread defiance or ignoring of health measures such as wearing masks in public places and staying a safe social distance of 1.5 meters (4.92 feet) apart.

With record numbers of COVID-19 happening day after day – after they were held down by an early lockdown – the resurgence is the fault of Greeks and residents not obeying health protocols, not tourists, said Hardalias.

He was deflecting criticism that the New Democracy government's decision to open to tourists in July to spur a falling economy is to blame for a second wave.

“Is tourism responsible for the increase in infections? The answer is categorically no,” Hardalias said. “Greece is not doing worse than other countries. We have reopened tourism without a significant burden on the health system,” he said, with public hospitals having added critical equipment.

Another record, 269 cases, was reported for Aug. 18, of which 39 were in arriving travelers and two more deaths, authorities said, raising the number of of cases to 7,427 and 232 deaths, August being the worst month yet.

Hardalias said 83% of the confirmed cases are domestic and are associated with public gatherings and a lax application of health rules, reported Katherimini as the government has not moved for mass closings of violators.

Asked why authorities do not report the number of cases on each island, Hardalias said it is done “so that they (the islands) are not targeted,” and denied accusation by rival parties the government is hiding the real numbers.

The island of Poros, not far from Pireaus, was locked down after 30 cases were discovered there and curfew were put on Antiparos and Spetses, islands popular with Greeks as well as tourists.

Hardalias also said that some travelers tested positive for the Coronavirus where they were staying and that their contacts are trying to be traced as worries mount the pandemic will go on long.

But the government then quickly moved to impose more, tighter restrictions on Mykonos as well as the northern region of Halkidiki after a spike in cases, new measures that could deter the tourists Greece wants but fears could bring or get infections.

The General Secretariat for Civil Protection  banned parties, open-air markets and religious processions and said public gatherings must be limited to no more than nine people with no explanation why the virus couldn't spread among them.

Restaurants must limit the number of people at tables to four unless they are family members and then it's six, although it wasn't said if any moves will be taken to stop crowds at bars or on the streets when food and drink establishments must close at midnight, people moving to buy drinks at kiosks and gather elsewhere.

The use of masks is mandatory in enclosed as well as open spaces and the measures will be in place at least until Aug. 29.

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