NEWS

Bid to prevent surge in Covid cases

PENNY BOULOUTZA

TAGS: Coronavirus, Tourism, Society, Politics

The government’s bid to continue containing the spread of the coronavirus while also opening up the country to international tourism, on which the economy relies so heavily, has been complicated by a rise in imported cases of Covid-19, particularly from Balkan countries, prompting the authorities to consider reimposing some restrictions. 

Meanwhile, Greece’s National Transparency Authority is planning a series of inspections on businesses, particularly bars and restaurants, to ensure that health protocols are being observed to guard against the further spread of the virus. 

Of the 50 new Covid-19 infections reported on Thursday, 27 were imported cases – 24 of whom were stopped at the border and three of whom visited medical centers themselves to get tested. In addition to the spike, health authorities are concerned about an increasing trend of lax observation of health measures, including overcrowding in bars and restaurants and the infrequent use of protective masks.

Some health experts recommended closing of the country’s land borders, though the consensus is that it is too early for such a move, Kathimerini understands. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is to meet with top officials on Friday to assess the situation.  

The 50 new cases announced on Thursday brought the total number of cases nationwide to 3,672 while the death toll remained unchanged at 193. Of the domestic cases, most were reported in northern Greece, with seven new cases in Attica. 

Health officials are particularly worried about asymptomatic tourists who have entered Greece. Their presence at busy tourist spots, combined with a lax enforcement of health protocols, could lead to the creation of localized “sparks,” experts fear. 

“If we relax, we will pay for it,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas said on Thursday. The government is “ringing a big alarm bell today,” he said, adding that additional restrictions might be announced early next week, depending on how the situation evolves over the weekend. 

Referring to the imported cases, Petsas said government officials are “monitoring the epidemiological data and are prepared to modify our decisions accordingly.” So far 31,169 targeted diagnostic tests on travelers between July 1 and 6 have led to the discovery of 100 positive cases, he said. 

Petsas said, however, that the biggest threat was a domestic one. “The coronavirus has not gone away; it’s here and it’s thriving on our complacency,” he said. 

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