ATHENS – Whether a second lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 could be extended will be shown over a 15-day period through Nov. 26, the shutdown of non-essential businesses set to lift Dec. 1.
That will be determined by whether people stay at home as required, except for permissible missions, and wear masks and stay safe social distances of at least 1.5 meters (4.92 feet) apart, as many hadn't been doing.
A kind of pandemic fatigue combined with a push to try to return to normal life had seen defiance of health protocols before they were toughened up and people who violate them now face doubled fines of 300 euros ($353.59.)
The first few days of the lockdown that began Nov. 7 saw millions of people requesting permission to go out, indications that they don't want the same kind of strict shutdown that began March 23 and lasted 10 weeks.
The next 15 days are seen as crucial regarding the course of the pandemic due to its unpredictability as well as the apparently relaxed reaction of the public to the lockdown.
Some one million people asked permission through their cell phones to walk themselves or their pets after a 9 p.m. curfew on Nov. 8, suggesting they were going out for other reasons not allowed.
And with signs of heavy traffic on the streets, New Democracy government spokesman Stelios Petsas said it appeared people weren't willing to obey as much as during the first lockdown and urged them to follow the rules.
“Once again, our individual responsibility and our collective maturity will be crucial, so that the lockdown remains on the three-week schedule announced,” he said, reported Kathimerini.
“Let us not constantly look for reasons to bypass them. Let’s stay away from friends and relatives for a while so that in the end we can be together much more,” he added.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had been applauded for the first lockdown that held down the number of cases and deaths but had been reluctant to do it again, fearing a second shock to the economy that could see many businesses, especially restaurants, shut down for good.
The lockdown's end was set for Dec. 1 also in a bid to prevent a wipeout of the Christmas and holiday shopping season that is critical for many businesses, especially after big losses during the first shutdown.
If the lockdown goes into or through the holidays it could further cut hopes of a recovery in 2021 with the economy this year on a path to shrink 10 percent and fears it could just get worse.
“The inspections throughout the implementation of the lockdown will be intensive and deviations from the observance of the measures will not be tolerated,” said Petsas.
He said the first round of checks “had the character of informing the citizens about the new measures,” and didn't bring fines but said leniency won't go on if people keep violating the measures, including wearing masks.