COVID MEASURES

New record in cases proves pandemic far from over, prompts restrictions

new-record-in-cases-proves-pandemic-far-from-over-prompts-restrictions

Authorities have imposed restrictions on entertainment, including sports events, and tightened mask mandates after a record number of Covid-19 cases were announced on Monday afternoon.

The National Public Health Organization announced an unprecedented 9,284 cases of the disease over the 24-period ending at 3 p.m. on Monday; there were also 66 deaths and 629 patients are on ventilators in intensive care units, up from 624 the day before.

Just 95,000 tests were conducted over the last 24-hour period, far lower than 325,900 daily average over the past week. This means that 9.74% of the tests turned positive, a very high figure by any measure.

The Attica region, which includes the capital, Athens, had the highest number of cases (4,038), followed by Thessaloniki (1,048).

“We are entering a phase of the Omicron variant prevailing across Greece,” Health Minister Thanos Plevris told reporters, noting the great rise in cases, especially in Attica.

The new measures will kick in on January 3 and will be in effect until the 16th, with the possibility of extension, as circumstances dictate. They include the mandatory use of high-protection KN95 or FFP2 masks, or, alternately, a double layer of other masks in supermarkets and public transport. Authorities suggest their use in crowded public spaces too.

Entertainment and catering venues will close at midnight, have no standing customers and only a maximum of six per table. Distancing will also be enforced and a ban on music will take effect if the guidelines are violated.

In sports stadiums, admissions will be limited to 10% of the venue’s capacity, with a cap of 1,000 spectators. Violations will result in events being held behind closed doors. Visits to retirement homes will be limited to those who have performed a PCR text within the previous 48 hours.

In public and private sector workplaces, half of staff will have to work from home and staggered shifts will be reintroduced, with the exact percentage will be determined according to the line of work.

Younger people are urged to limit visits to elderly relatives.

The restrictions will not take effect earlier, because authorities did not want to see crowded New Year’s celebrations at homes, Plevris said.