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Toga! Greek Police Busting COVID-19 Private Parties, Can’t Stop Protests

THESSALONIKI — A third wave of COVID-19 in Greece is being worsened by raves of unlawful private parties in homes and clubs that health authorities said could be superspreader events that will prolong the pandemic.

Some draw scores or hundreds of people, such as a gathering Greece’s third-largest city, Patra, while in the second-largest city, Thessaloniki, police busted a party of 13 French foreign students who tried to hide under beds. 

Matina Pagoni, the head of the union representing hospital doctors and scientists analyzing epidemiological data to try to determine when the pandemic might ease said parties and protest rallies were worrying.

Patras University infectious disease expert Charalambos Gogos told Open TV: “Sure, people are tired, but just look at what’s happening in hospitals. We’re trying to flatten the curve and people need to show more understanding of the problems we face.” 

“We must step up, so we can make progress and free up our hospitals,” he said after police shut down a party with more than 100 people during a suspended annual carnival period, dealing out 47,000 euros ($56,080) in fines.

Genetics professor Manolis Dermitzakis warned that such gatherings are particularly dangerous as they tend to trigger a “mob mentality” that throws caution to the wind, said Kathimerini in a wrap-up of the phenomenon.

He told state broadcaster ERT that the repeated violations in the face of evidence they could spread the virus and kill people who attend the events were being found all around the country, with some parties in people’s yards.

Commenting to state broadcaster ERT on the subject of such violations – 

Panagiotis Gargalianos, the head of the Hellenic Society for Infectious Disease, told Mega TV that, “You don’t need to be a genius to understand that we shouldn’t be throwing parties,” but the warnings are going unheeded.

“People cannot stop everything, but they do need to exercise common sense,” he said, but that’s not happening, especially among the young, many of whom had said COVID-19 is an old person’s disease that doesn’t affect them, but does.

The New Democracy government blamed its major rival SYRIZA of urging people to turn out in mass allies against alleged police brutality, and thousands marched in support of terrorist killer Dimitris Koufodinas before he lifted his hunger strike in demand of a prison transfer.

Gogos said he was worried about the potential impact on transmission of the protests where thousands massed together, not keeping safe social distances and many not wearing masks.

“This is not the time” for such demonstrations, he said. “Rallies need to be organized in a different way,” he said without offering any ideas how that could be done without people crowding together on the streets.

With a third quasi-lockdown more than four months long as the government vacillates about what to do, he said people have become complacent or are suffering ‘lockdown fatigue,” and becoming less cautious.

The lockdown system, he said, “cannot continue as is if the rules are constantly being broken,” with loopholes allowing people to go out in droves for exercise and other reasons that has driven near-normal traffic.

“Taking measures is not the issue; upholding them is,” he said, although when police tried to issue fines to people gathering in the Athens neighborhood of Nea Smyrni it set off protests and a second rally that turned violent after police were accused of being too aggressive, one man beaten with an iron baton.

Gargalianos said the rise in infections despite restrictions is also because of variants, especially a contagious version first found in the United Kingdom after COVID-19 parties there.

In Thessaloniki, police fined the French students caught partying 6,900 euros ($8233) with violations bringing penalties of 300 euros ($358) for individuals and up to 10,000 euros ($11,932) for businesses.

According to a report on the Thestival website, police were called to the poarty by neighbors complaining about noise in the apartment of a 20-year-old French student there as part of the Erasmus exchange program.

The young woman reportedly denied the illegal gathering when officers first appeared at her door at around 1.30 a.m., prompting a search of the apartment, the site saying 13 students between 20-23 were hiding. The organizer was fined 3,000 euros ($3580) but no word on whether she was able to pay the penalty.

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