Greece has extended until December 14 a nationwide lockdown it imposed in early November to curb the spread of Coronavirus, government spokesperson Stelios Petsas announced on Thursday.
“The cases are declining but at a slower pace than expected,” Petsas told journalists.
During the lockdown, that has already been extended once, citizens will still need to request a permit for their outings, issued via SMS messaging, while a night curfew from 9pm to 5am also remains in place, with the exceptions of work, exercise and walking pets.
While the country managed to keep its infections low during the first wave of the pandemic in spring, it is now reporting an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases and one of the highest death tolls in Europe.
Health experts insist that if it is to salvage the capacities of the national health system, restrictions need to be extended at least until December 21, as intubations remain high, pushing hospitals to their limits.
One of the government’s goals is to reopen the retail gradually, while the scenario of reopening restaurants and bars for the Christmas holidays remains unlikely, despite mounting pressure by businessmen who find themselves trapped in an already heavily burdened economy.
Yet, seasonal stores will be exempted from the restrictions, and as of Monday, December 7, retail stores selling exclusively seasonal Christmas goods will open. Further details on the way of functioning of the stores and the working hours will be announced on Friday.
The government spokesperson also referred to COVID-19 vaccinations, saying that the first vaccine batch will reach Greek markets in late December of early January and the plan is to conduct over 2 million vaccinations per month, starting with those working in the health sector and those belonging to high-risk groups.