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Society

Wary Greeks Begin Easing Out of COVID-19 Lockdown

ATHENS – Under the New Normal, Greeks tried to resume everyday life as best they could on May 4 when a lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus began being lifted, in stages, with the reopening of small stores.

In the first wave, the permitted openings included bookstores, stationery, computer and telecommunications and sports stores, florists, beauty salons, opticians and stores selling hearing aids.

For the first time since it was imposed on March 23, people who wanted out of their homes didn’t have to have permission in the form of a downloaded document, on their cell phones, or handwritten, explaining why they were out, otherwise risking a 150-euro ($167.78) fine.

While major retail stores, hotels, and restaurants and taverns aren’t allowed to operate yet – when they do only outdoor tables will be allowed and air conditioning barred – people were allowed into parks although told to keep social distancing of 1.5 meters (4.92 feet) apart.

People, for the most part, appeared to be adhering to the requirements that include wearing masks on public transportation, where the number of passengers is being limited although the next day there were scenes of crowds gathering in major public spots.

So-called “Passenger Assistants” were at the main metro stations advising and urging passengers to observe safety measures and police were put at bus stops to make sure people observed the limitations on how many people could board.

On buses and trolleys, a plastic divider separates the driver from passengers, who are not allowed to sit next to each other while on the metro, only 120 of the 240 seats per car can be occupied, while ribbons have been placed in the intermediate seats so that passengers do not sit sit side-by-side or any touching.

“So far, everything is going well, passengers are wearing masks and people do not need much encouragement from the escorts that we have in place,” Stefanos Agiasoglou, the CEO of Attica’s bus and trolley bus operator, OSY told Kathimerini.

But fewer people on public transport meant more using their cars on highways, certain to reverse the clean air benefits of a six-week lockdown that kept people off the roads as well, and cutting into revenues for the state from the metro, buses, trolleys, trams and trains.

Store owners were taking health protocol measures too, including employees wearing masks and gloves and pharmacies setting up cordoned-off areas so that customers could show a worker what they wanted without touching it.

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