The Greek government announced on Saturday a one-week closure of all retail businesses that were allowed to open during the holidays, as well as the closure of all houses of worship, to prepare for the reopening of schools.
The decision was taken by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the government for "precautionary reasons," to avert a spike in the viral load so that schools of all levels can reopen on January 11, according to government spokesman Stelios Petsas, who made the announcement.
Despite a recent decline in new infections, the health system is still under pressure from the number of patients being treated.
The restrictions mean that the "click-and-collect" model –hereby customers physically pick up merchandise they have bought online or by phone at store entrances –ill be suspended, while hairdressers, nail salons and bookshops will close. Fishing and hunting is also banned.
At the same time, Petsas said that the nightly curfew will return to 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. for one week. People working night shifts are exempt from the curfew but need to be able to show a pass from their employers if stopped during a police check.
The measures apply as of Sunday, January 3, starting at 6 a.m., and until 6 a.m. on Monday, January 11, the government spokesman said.
Retailers and churches will be allowed to reopen along with schools on January 11, with the same health and social distancing rules that applied before the holidays, Petsas added.
Opposition parties slammed the government's "flip-flopping" and accused it of sending contradictory signals to a wary population, oscillating between optimism and alarm.
Minister of State Giorgos Gerapetritis, a close aide to Mitsotakis, had strongly hinted at the temporary imposition of a stricter lockdown in an interview with Kathimerini, published Saturday.
"We will not hesitate to take difficult decisions, to sacrifice some other economic or social activity or to restrict ourselves further in order to prioritize the safe return of students to their classrooms," he said.
The minister of state also mentioned a recent decision by the Council of State, the country's top administrative court, saying that requiring students to be vaccinated before they attend school is in line with the Greek Constitution.
This will happen as long as vaccines are made available to students, something not planned to happen before June, unless the government modifies its plans.