NEWS

Masks come off, but expert advises keeping them close by

masks-come-off-but-expert-advises-keeping-them-close-by

Masks are no longer mandatory in uncrowded public spaces as of Thursday morning, the government decided, accepting the unanimous recommendation of an advisory panel of infectious disease specialists.

Deputy Minister for Civil Protection and Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias also announced that, starting Monday, there will no longer be a curfew after several months. Curfew hours had been gradually reduced to just 3.5 hours – from 1.30 to 5 a.m. The abolition comes a few days earlier than expected.

“Our daily lives are changing dramatically for the better,” Hardalias said on Wednesday, also announcing further relaxations of the restrictions.

Also starting Monday, employees who have completed their vaccination schedule will no longer have to self-test while reporting to work. The same holds for gym clients, provided 15 days have elapsed since they completed their vaccination. In bars, cafes and restaurants, 10 people can now share a table and the number of guests allowed at receptions is raised to 300. On organized beaches, there will be a maximum of 120 customers per 1,000 square meters of beach.

“The country’s epidemiological profile is satisfactory. We can make plans for the summer, but we must not let our guard down,” said Vana Papaevangelou, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Athens, while announcing the experts’ recommendation on masks yesterday. “We do not throw away the masks, we always keep them with us,” she added. “Masks are still the best protection from the virus,” she said.

Masks are still required in closed spaces, including transport and shops.

Health authorities announced 520 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the 24-hour period ending at 3 p.m. on Wednesday. Only one was detected in a traveler entering the country. There were also 14 deaths.

“The positivity index (the percentage of tested people who tested positive for the virus) is 1.3%; self-tests and mass vaccination contributed to that,” Papaevangelou said, adding that new cases have dropped 40% on a weekly basis and the average age of those diagnosed has dropped to 32. “We can attribute that to younger persons’ greater mobility, the fact that more of them are on vacation and that they are still not completely vaccinated,” she said, adding that in major tourist destinations, the average age of newly infected people is in the early 20s.