The administration of the Mount Athos monastic community in northern Greece took the unprecedented decision on Thursday to prohibit admission to pilgrims and other visitors in order to safeguard its residents from the coronavirus epidemic.
The all-male monastic community receives tens of thousands of visitors a year and this is the first time it is known to have taken a decision to bar their entry.
The decision is in keeping with the recommendations of the government, which seek to restrict public gatherings and the possibility of outsiders bringing the highly infectious virus into the community of 20 monasteries whose population stands at around 2,000.
In view of the decision, the issuing of admission passes from the monastic community’s offices in Ouranoupoli and Thessaloniki will be suspended, until at least March 30, when the decision will be reviewed.
Religious services will continue to be conducted for residents of the community, which will continue to receive supplies from the regular ferries.