Pace of lockdown loosening accelerates

Pace of lockdown loosening accelerates

Greece is about to quickly move toward loosening lockdown restrictions, helped by what officials called a gradual de-escalation of the coronavirus pandemic.

The government has declared itself satisfied that previous relaxation measures, such as the quasi-opening of retail activities and high schools, have not driven coronavirus cases higher.

It also points to the acceleration of vaccinations, the reduction in cities’ viral loads and the warmer weather, which allows for open-air activities, as reasons to proceed faster with winding down the lockdown. But a complete end to restrictions is not yet on the cards.

The deputy minister in charge of civil protection, Nikos Hardalias, made it official on Friday: Organized beaches open on Saturday, a week before the official start of Greece’s tourist season.

Also on Saturday, more people will be allowed in large shops (over 500 square meters), with one shopper per 50 square meters allowed. However, shoppers still need to make appointments to shop and are required to be able to present proof in case of police inspection. As a medical expert advising the government said, this measure has been effective in keeping shops free of crowds.

On Monday, May 10, kindergartens, elementary schools and junior high schools (Grades 7-9) also reopen. However, there is still resistance on the part of some parents, and a few teachers, to conducting self-tests in order to attend. This led Education Minister Niki Kerameus to declare on Friday that the ministry will help financially any teacher who gets sued by parents for requiring a self-test result before their child attends class in person.

As for the recalcitrant teachers, Deputy Education Minister Zetta Makri said they will be sanctioned, with sanctions ranging from a written reprimand, to a pay cut, to dismissal. She did not elaborate on how and under which circumstances these sanctions will be applied.

In a few days, the Culture Ministry will announce the reopening of museums, open-air cinemas and live open-air performances.

On Friday, health authorities announced 2,691 new coronavirus cases and 63 deaths. The number of intubated patients continued to decline, to 749, leaving 18% of specialized intensive care units available.

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