Greece extends some COVID lockdown curbs until Jan. 18

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Greece
FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective masks against COVID-19 ride their bikes, as the Parthenon Temple is seen atop the Acropolis hill, during a nationwide lockdown to contain the disease, in Athens, Greece, November 23, 2020. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

January 8, 2021

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece on Friday extended some lockdown curbs to contain the spread of the coronavirus until Jan. 18, Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said in a televised briefing.

The country, in lockdown since early November due to a spike in infections mainly in the north, has seen its public health system come under severe strain while infections are receding at a slow pace.

“Maintaining a low viral load during the winter is difficult,” infectious diseases specialist Vana Papaevangelou said. “If we allow conditions that spark an epidemiological surge, we will see big pressure on our health system.”

Authorities will allow kindergartens and primary schools across the country to reopen on Monday. But other sectors, including retailers and hair salons, will remain shut for another week.

The government relaxed some curbs in the run-up to Christmas, allowing bookstores and hair salons to open along with so-called “Click Away” shopping, where retailers receive online and phone orders and then book a time for customers to pick up their goods.

But it shut them down again and banned “Click Away” shopping last week.

Health authorities reported 721 new COVID-19 cases on Friday and 49 related deaths, bringing the respective totals since the first coronavirus case was detected in February last year to 143,494 and 5,195.

Greece earlier extended restrictions on international travellers arriving in Greece by two weeks.

(Reporting by Renee Maltezou and George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Nick Macfie)