ATHENS – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who wanted to salvage a Christmas season for reeling retailers, was left with no choice but to extend a second more lenient lockdown after his medical advisers said Greece otherwise would see COVID-19 cases in January explode to more than 10,000 a day.
The New Democracy leader admitted he waited too long to bring the second closing of non-essential businesses although it hasn't been as restrictive a a first lockdown in the spring that lasted 10 weeks.
His panel of infectious diseases experts, said Kathimerini, told him if he allowed stores to open for Christmas business that, combined with rules seeing so many people out of their homes there' been almost near normal road traffic, that the pandemic would spiral out of control.
Another worry was a surge in western Attica, a heavily-populated area where the Coronavirus could have spiked before health authorities could do much of anything to contain it.
With hopes that the first vaccine will arrive in January, the advisory panel wanted to hold down cases to try to bring the beginning of the end of the deadly virus that swept through the country
Another determinant was that the less-restrictive lockdown failed to hold down the number of cases and deaths and didn't reduce pressure on nearly overwhelmed public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) that were nearly full.
Mitsotakis decided on a compromise to let closed stores allow people to order goods online only and make a reservation to pick them up at the store, a so-called “click-and-collect” method that shuts out smaller businesses.
But hairdressers and small bookstores were allowed to open while larger bookstores that sell other goods such as electronics were not, creating a competitive disadvantage. Seasonal stores selling holiday offerings are also open.
The health experts also were said to have considered allowing a lifting of the lockdown in areas of the country with relatively fewer cases but that was only 20 of the 74 regions and could have created a political backlash for the government.
Greece was left with having some of the tightest holiday measures in the European Union, despite the otherwise lenience, and families will still be able to gather at Christmas – with a maximum of nine people.
Churches will also be allowed to have Christmas and Epiphany Day services but only with nine people and 25 in cathedrals with no word on how police are expected to enforce family dinner limits or what would happen if churches went over the limit.