NEWS

Retail stores, churches hang in balance

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After extending the lockdown – which will impact a wide range of activities – until January 7, the government is weighing its options with regard to the Christmas season and whether it will allow retail stores to open and churches to function.

The final decisions are expected to be announced on Saturday rather than Friday, due to the European Union leaders’ summit and the start of the budget debate. 

Referring to churches, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said on Tuesday that they cannot remain closed if retail stores are to open. “This will be discussed over the next two or three days so that decisions are taken,” he said.

However, several members of the government’s committee of experts on infectious diseases believe that opening churches will carry a greater risk due to the higher average age of worshippers. 

At the moment there are two most likely possibilities. Either they will not open at all, which will be the case if retail stores don’t open, or, alternatively, they will open on specific days, like Christmas Eve, but under strict measures, as was the case at Easter in May with the mandatory use of masks and a limit of one person per 10 square meters.

The other big challenge is that of retail, with the decision reportedly tilting in favor of stores opening under strict rules. The course of the pandemic on Wednesday and Thursday is considered pivotal to the decision that will be taken.

If the rate of coronavirus infections and intubations does not drop, then anything is possible, including the case that nothing opens.

On the other hand, a more positive scenario suggests stores – or at least some – will open on Monday, perhaps with a tightening of the rules regarding the number of people in relation to square meterage. 

There has also been an inconclusive debate about big department stores. The initial thought was not to open them at all. However, objections have been raised to this option as their closure would lead to overcrowding in small storers.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, health authorities said the number of deaths remained high, announcing another 102 fatalities, which brought the overall number to 3,194, while reporting another 1,382 new cases of coronavirus. The total number now stands at 118,045.

The number of intubated patients was 579, from 600 on Monday.