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Soft COVID-19 Lockdown Didn’t Work, Greece Looks at Hard Lockdown

ATHENS – Greece’s New Democracy government is set to decide Feb. 4 whether to bring a hard lockdown to contain another surge of COVID-19 cases that blew up after an already lenient second closing of businesses was eased.
 
If the epidemiological picture deteriorates further, there is also the possibility of a universal lockdown either in Attica or even throughout the country, Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias told ANT1 TV.
Government spokesman Christos Tarantilis saying that “at this stage there is no indication of a new hard lockdown,” although he admitted the figures aren’t good and being scrutinized.
 
“The data can change significantly from day to day, they are examined day by day and decisions are made week by week,” he said.
 
Of special concern is the hotbed of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city where health protocol defiance is high, bringing a surge in October, 2020 that forced Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to bring a second lockdown – too late he said.
 
Cases in Thessaloniki jumped 50 percent in one day on Feb. 2, the city set to be designated a Red Zone with even tougher health measures said coming to try to rein in the pandemic.
 
Environmental Engineering professor Dimosthenis Sarigiannis told Antenna TV that a real lockdown over three weeks could contain the emerging third wave of the Coronavirus.
 
Mitsotakis is caught in a dilemma though as many businesses are faltering – some said to be on the verge of going under – and barring any shopping could spell the end for them.
 
But not requiring people to stay home except for genuinely permissible missions could see the pandemic worsen and doom even more businesses, most closed half of the previous year by lockdowns.
 
Sarigiannis called for policy changes to expand remote working, while calling proposals to move the curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 p.m. “a half measure” in line with others the government has been using.
 
He said keeping schools open was a bad idea after many high schools and middle schools reopened again Feb. 1, except for those in hard-hit areas, which includes the capital and the prefecture of Attica, the country’s most populous.
 
Although the government said schools would be safe, Sarigiannis said they have a “multiplier effect” on new infections, difficult to impossible for students to keep a safe social distance while being told to wear masks.
The nationwide daily infection rate soared to 1,261 Feb. 2, with 22 more deaths, bringing the grim tolls to 158,716 cases, with 5,851 fatalities, the numbers rising as soon as people were allowed to go shopping again, although with time limits in stores.
 
The government pulled that back fast, stores returning to the click-and-collect method in which shoppers make purchases online and reservations to pick up items outside businesses, no one allowed inside.
The determining factor for a real lockd would be the rate of infections, hospital admissions and number of people in public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) on ventilators.
 
The National Health System, battered by a near-decade of austerity-driven budget cuts that also said doctors flee to other countries in search of work has been stressed severely trying to cope.
 
New restrictions could see traffic barred after 6 p.m., stores closing at 5 p.m. and the closing again of high schools days after the reopened, students returning to remote learning from home.

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