ATHENS – An on-again off-again tightened-and-eased third lockdown with loopholes has failed to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Greece, the New Democracy now planning to bring the hammer down.
Rising cases and epidemiological data showed that letting people move between neighborhoods in cars to go to other places for exercise and gather in public didn’t work, with no reports whether measures were being enforced.
That has seen cases rise along with hospital admissions and people on ventilators in public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICU’s) nearing 100 capacity, ratcheting up worry as fast as the Coronavirus spreads.
The government’s advisory panel of doctors and scientists was set to meet March 4 to decide what to do next, with Kathimerini saying the indications are to again recommend tighter measures after many Greeks stopped following them.
The experts were said to be concerned about how many were using a permissible mission on their cell phones to go out for exercise, which has seen streets packed with traffic and parks plugged with people.
The government has received recommendations to limit outdoor exercise to places one can walk to in their own neighborhood, government spokesperson Aristotelia Peloni said, after letting them move around was allowed because some areas don’t have sufficient parks.
Speaking to Greece’s SKAI TV, she said new measures would begin on March 4 during an extended lockdown that could be kept in place even longer because it wasn’t working effectively enough.
Health authorities on March 3 announced 2,353 new coronavirus infections, a record number for 2021, while 23 people died from the disease. The total number of intubated patients rose further to 422 from 406 the day before.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, applauded for a real lockdown in March 2020 that held down cases and deaths, has been trying a compromise with half-measures to keep the economy from teetering any further but still seeing closed restaurants, bars and taverns on the edge of going under.
With doctors and scientists on one side recommending tighter restrictions and economic analysts and store owners on the other side demanding re-openings, he’s caught between Scylla and Charybdis.
The government reportedly wanted to let retail stores reopen after March 15 but that could now depend on whether the pandemic is being reined in even partially instead of continuing to spiral.
That means, the paper said, that Mitsotakis might have to lock down hard – and for real – until then to drive down the case load or risk having to keep shut non-essential businesses with Easter approaching in May.
March 4 is also the tsiknopempti holiday for meat eating for the start of a lent period and traditionally sees large home gatherings, the government urging – but not mandating – it be limited to families.
People are still being allowed to shop at essential businesses such as supermarkets, pharmacies, kiosks, and liquor stores but allegedly limited to three hours with no practical way to enforce it.