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Tourists Bringing Greece COVID-19, But Transmission Rate Low

July 19, 2020

ATHENS – While opening to tourists has seen them bringing COVID-19 with them, bringing the number of cases to 3,983 as of July 18 and 194 deaths, health officials said the rate of transmission shows no need for alarm.

But not taking any chances, the New Democracy government said all supermarket workers and shoppers now have to wear masks – like other health protocols since the gradual lifting of a long lockdown – it was widely ignored.

And regulations were put in place for beaches, where it is nearly impossible to enforce them, including one which said only two people can be under an umbrella unless they are related or in the same family.

Despite the relatively low number of cases, authorities are concerned about increasing evidence that social distancing guidelines aren’t being followed with people gathering in crowds and in restaurants and other place with no reports of fines or closings.

Greece had one of the world's best records in holding down the number of cases and deaths but there's been a steady increase since the phased-in opening of borders, including those coming by car.

Tourists from the United Kingdom, one of the hardest-hit regions, were allowed as of July 15 and after small numbers of arrivals were reported because they would be tested and would be quarantined if showing positive, more flights were scheduled.

While epidemiologists whose advice was relied upon by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in bringing the lockdown said they were concerned about the increase in cases, especially from tourists, they said the transmission rate was low.

The state's COVID-19 observatory said the average rate of new cases over a week was 35 compared to 25 the week before with the transmission rate at 0.4, well below the level of 1, which indicates when an epidemic is under control, said Kathimerini.

Tests were conducted on travelers who arrived in Greece from the UK and two who came from London were found positive as health officials U conducted 1,366 tests on July 15 and 1,437 tests on July 17 on passengers who arrived from several UK cities, including Birmingham and Manchester.

The two travelers who arrived from London through Paris and Larnaca airport on Cyprus tested positive were isolated and authorities traced their contacts to prevent a spread of the virus.

The Deputy Minister of Development and Investments Nikos Papathanasis said people should report violators, including at beaches, and to call the 1520 phone line.

Papathanasis said the lockdown wouldn't be brought back but said there could be additional measures taken locally if violations threaten to undermine the widely-defied health protocols.

He told ANT1 TV that a decision to ban Panigyria celebrations held by village communities to celebrate the feast days of local patron saints, may be extended until the end of August with no word how that could be enforced either.

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