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Society

Step-by-Step, Greece Eases Out of COVID-19 Lenient Lockdown

ATHENS – While not allowed to travel to their villages for Easter, Greeks are already stepping back into a near-normal life despite the lingering COVID-19 pandemic with an already pseudo-lockdown being relaxed even more.

Stores and malls have been allowed to open, with restrictions on the number of customers and restaurants will again operate – with outside dining only for now – beginning May 3, the day after Easter.

While high school seniors had already gone back to classes, students of other grades will join them after the holiday as well and there will be a general opening May 14 to tourists who are free of the Coronavirus.

The New Democracy government also said that it will allow travel between municipalities but not for inter-regional trips yet, with Greek police set to have 24-hour checks at toll booths and side roads to prevent an Easter exodus.

People will still need permission via their cell phones, Internet or handwritten forms to move about until mid-May although there's so much movement on the streets it's granted automatically.

The government's advisory panel of doctors and scientists are urging caution even as people are ready to bust out of the easy lockdown with warmer spring weather settling across the country. 

Restaurants and cafes won't be allowed to play music for now though, said Deputy Citizens Protection Minister in Charge of Civil Protection Nikos Hardalias, recommended by the panel

Athanassios Exadactylos, President of the Panhellenic Medical Association told TV station Open that, “The music obliges (people) to raise their voice and make a greater effort to be heard and people lean closer to hear…this is the sole explanation for banning music.”

The government also wants to try to prevent crowds from massing for Good Friday and Easter services although it wasn't said how that could be enforced if hordes show up at churches.

Officially, there's a limit at churches of one person per 25 square meters indoors and one per 10 square meters outdoors, although the church wants more and scenes outside some churches have seen that already often violated.

Churchgoers are also supposed to wear two masks but it wasn't said who will be in charge of checking them to make sure they do and if they will fined if they don't, the government already allowing wild outdoor parties in city squares.

Data showed that the Coronavirus is retreating slowly, coinciding with an accelerated vaccination program and that the number of cases daily had fallen 15 percent although the number of deaths and people in public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICU's) remained stubbornly high.

Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said some 3 million vaccinations have been given, but not two shots required to be fully inoculated, which is only about one million and the government also planning 100,000 shots daily.

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