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Society

Wild Abandon, Defiance Driving COVID-19 Cases Spike in Greece

ATHENS — Pleading, cajoling, demanding, and threatening fines isn't making Greeks comply enough with health measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19, cases rising faster now after wild parties and people not wearing masks or staying apart.

"We are calling this a wake-up week. We are trying to awaken people with messages and daily  announcements on additional measures," government spokesman Stelios Petsas told Mega TV.  “The virus is here, it feeds on our complacency," he said.

That came as the New Democracy government issued additional measures, including the wearing of masks in more public spaces as it had been for supermarkets, with scenes of people shopping without them nor being stopped.

A March 23 lockdown held down the number of cases and deaths that kept going downward until July when a combination of ignoring health protocols and allowing in tourists has seen cases jumping to levels bringing worry and an alert.

While tourists allowed to enter in July have brought cases, arrivals are far lower than hoped for because of restrictions, including testing and getting mobile phone codes and possible quarantines.

Some 90 percent of the new cases have been domestic and authorities are blaming parties, particularly by the young on islands such as Mykonos, with few reports of facilities being shut down temporarily although hundreds of fines to individuals of 150 euros ($177.85) have been issued for violations.

The first five days of August saw another 380 cases, a big jump, bringing the total as of that time to 4,973 cases and 210 deaths, along with worries if it doesn't curtail that there could be a second wave or second lockdown.

"We have located three sources of concern: very regular crossings from Balkan countries by ethnic Greeks and residence permit holders… social gatherings, including clubbing youths, weddings and baptisms, and public transport," Petsas said.

Despite that, clubs will still be allowed to operate but close earlier, and weddings, funerals and baptisms can continue with a limit of 100 people with no explanation why that number wouldn't allow the virus to spread.

Summer fairs and religious festivals have been canceled and masks must be worn in indoor public areas, while visits to retirement homes and other institutions hosting not allowed until Aug. 15 at least for now.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has ruled out another shutdown of non-essential businesses for now, trying to balance the need to save lives against saving an economy brought down by the virus' lingering effects.

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