NEWS

New wave of restrictions from Tuesday

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A new wave of restrictions aimed at curbing a spike in coronavirus infections – announced by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Saturday – comes into effect from Tuesday, closing bars and restaurants in high-risk areas and making the use of face masks and a nighttime curfew mandatory nationwide. 

The restrictions, which are to apply for a month from 6 a.m. Tuesday, aim to avert the need for a full nationwide lockdown.

The government’s one-month plan effectively divides the country into two zones from the current four – putting regions in risk level three and four into one zone and grouping levels one and two where infections are still low. 

In the higher-risk zone, which includes Attica and Thessaloniki, bars and restaurants will close – though delivery and takeaway services will be permitted – along with cinemas, gyms, theaters and museums. Schools, banks and retail stores will remain open. 

A curfew, from midnight to 5 a.m., will apply nationwide, as will the mandatory use of face masks in all public areas. Travel between regions will be permitted, unlike in the first lockdown in the spring. 

“I must put the health and safety of Greeks above all other options,” Mitsotakis said on Saturday. He said the restrictions would not “freeze” daily life and that all possible efforts were being made to avoid a full lockdown. The government is to bolster businesses obliged to close with some 1.5 billion euros. 

The decision to close bars and restaurants again was taken after epidemiologists stressed that overcrowding on their premises was responsible for much of the recent increase in infections. An alternative plan of shortening opening hours was considered but rejected over fears that it could be counterproductive, leading to more overcrowding. 

A key driver behind the premier’s decision to impose the new measures was the increasing pressure on intensive care units at the country’s hospitals, in northern Greece, in particular. In Thessaloniki, for instance, occupancy at ICUs rose from 10 to 60 percent within a week and there were fears that Covid patients from northern Greece would have to be sent to Athens hospitals where occupancy is at around 50 to 60 percent.

Sources indicated that, had the new measures not been taken, ICUs in Attica would have been full in 10 to 15 days.