NEWS

New restrictions mulled as Covid cases continue to rise

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Even as it gradually opens its borders to countries with a shakier record in containing the coronavirus than Greece, with a ban on direct flights from the United Kingdom lifted as of Wednesday, the government is mulling the imposition of new restrictions as the number of cases continues to rise.

On Tuesday, the National Public Health Authority announced 58 new cases, 28 of which were linked to international travel. The new infections brought the nationwide total to 3,883, with the death toll remaining steady at 193 as no new fatalities were announced.

Infectious disease expert Charalambos Gogos told Skai television on Tuesday that the country was experiencing a spike that could require new restrictions. Among the measures being considered are the reimposition of a limit of six people at cafe and restaurant tables, and making the wearing of a mask obligatory in all public places.

“Masks can be an important weapon against the epidemic at this phase,” Gogos said, expressing particular concern about overcrowding at beach bars, nightclubs and village festivals, the so-called “panigyria.” The latter have been banned until the end of the month, prompting dismay in some local communities.

While opening up to flights to the UK on Wednesday and to Sweden next Wednesday, authorities are boosting inspections at Greece’s land border, demanding negative Covid tests from visitors following a spike in positive cases from Balkan countries last week. And if necessary, new restrictions will be introduced, officials say.

“This is an administration which bases its action on the opinions of experts,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas told Skai television.

Meanwhile Elias Mossialos, a health policy professor at the London School of Economics, told Kathimerini that Greece’s competent handling of the pandemic could be an opportunity for it to become a regional hub for responding to infectious diseases, a regional chapter of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.