Greece reverses decision to reopen shops after COVID-19 cases surge

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Greece will shut its shops on Saturday less than two weeks after they were allowed to reopen, and has indefinitely postponed plans to reopen secondary schools, after a surge in coronavirus infections forced it to reverse early steps out of lockdown.

“The horizontal spread of infections in the most densely populated area of the country is worrisome,” Vana Papaevangelou, a member of the committee of experts advising the government, told a press briefing on Friday.

“We don’t want to face an exponential rise of infections and the impact it would have on the public health system.”

She said the attention of epidemiologists had shifted from northern Greece to the wider Athens metropolitan area, “where there was a clear rise of infections in most neighbourhoods”.

The occupancy of COVID-19 intensive care units in hospitals in Athens, where nearly half of Greece’s population lives, had reached 61%.

Greece took its first steps on Jan. 18 to loosen a second lockdown in place since November. Shops, hair salons, primary schools and kindergartens were reopened, and the authorities announced secondary schools would reopen from Feb. 1.

Under the newly tightened restrictions announced on Friday, shops in high infection areas would again have to close, though customers can pick up orders made online or by phone. Secondary schools will continue teaching remotely for the time being.

The restrictions will last at least until Feb. 8.

On Friday, health authorities reported 941 new coronavirus cases and 22 deaths, bringing total infections to 155,678 since the first case was detected in February last year and COVID-related deaths to 5,764.

Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said the situation was “particularly fragile” and there should be no complacency.

Sourced By: Thomas Reuters Foundation

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