A day after Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced a full lockdown in the broader Athens region to contain a resurgence in coronavirus cases and ease pressure on the National Health System, Deputy Minister for Civil Protection Nikos Hardalias provided more details about the measures on Wednesday.
Hardalias said the restrictions, which will apply from Thursday until the end of the month, include an extension of the night curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. on weekdays, as well as of the newly-introduced 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew on weekends.
Residents will only be allowed to leave home for specific reasons after notifying authorities by text message.
Individuals will still be allowed to travel between municipalities for physical exercise, using the SMS system, Hardalias said. Hardalias said a ban on movement, as some experts had recommended, would have been “class punishment” for people living in areas with no park access.
The minister specified that travel between regions will be allowed for work-related or health reasons only. Similarly, university students will be allowed to travel from or to the address of their permanent residence.
Hardalias said that schools of all grades (barring special education schools) will return to online instruction.
He said that taxis will be allowed to ply with a maximum of two passengers in addition to the driver. This means that there will be a maximum of three persons in the vehicle. The same limit applies to private vehicles.
The maximum passenger capacity on all public transport will be reduced to 65 percent, Hardalias said. Ferries can travel with 50 percent capacity.
Religious services will be conducted without a congregation. The maximum number of people who may attend events such as weddings, christenings, funerals and memorial services is nine.
Non-essential shops closed
General Secretary for Commerce Panagiotis Stamboulidis said that non-essential shops will remain closed during the lockdown. Flower shops will be allowed to operate on February 13 and 14 (Valentine’s Day) from 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. in line with social distancing guidelines, using the “click away” (click-and-collect) or “click inside” (shopping by appointment) systems.
The decision for a stricter lockdown in the capital region was expected. Daily cases had begun rising to levels last seen in November, when the second, not-so-tight lockdown was imposed. Hospital beds were filling again and analysis of human waste revealed a steep increase in the spread of the virus. Last Friday, 13 of the 33 epidemiologists advising the government had demanded immediate and drastic measures.
Health officials reported 1,526 infections on Tuesday, more than double the number recorded a day earlier – half of them in the wider Athens area, with Covid-19 related deaths reaching 6,017 since the coronavirus was first detected.