Athens, Feb 10 (IANS) Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced on Tuesday a full Covid-19 lockdown for the Attica region, where half of Greece’s population lives, in order to stem the further spread of the novel coronavirus.
All schools in the region will be closed, students will return to online learning, and all stores will also shut down, with the exception of supermarkets, pharmacies, bakeries and gas stations, the Xinhua news agency reported.
Greece has been in a nationwide lockdown since November 7, 2020, which has been extended several times. Additional restrictions have been imposed on areas with a heavy epidemiological load.
However, new infections and hospital admissions have spiked in recent days, and the alarming spread of more contagious Covid-19 variants has forced the authorities to act to ease pressure on the health system, he explained.
“Our aim is to always be as step ahead of the virus,” Mitsotakis said on Greek national broadcaster ERT.
“As long as the crisis continues, the state will continue to support households and businesses,” he said.
Also on Tuesday, Greece’s National Public Health Organization (EODY) reported 1,526 new cases and 20 deaths in the past 24 hours.
The country has now registered 166,067 confirmed infections and 6,017 deaths since the first case was diagnosed in Greece on February 26, 2020, while currently 277 patients are treated in intensive care units.
The EODY said that the number of cases of the mutant variant of Covid-19 that was first detected in Britain stands at 412 in the country, and six cases of the mutated strain that was first detected in South Africa, have been identified since January 31.
Half of the new cases were registered in Attica, where 70 percent of the intensive care beds for Covid-19 patients are currently occupied.
The number of Greece’s daily confirmed infections had dropped from about 1,500 cases in mid-December to fewer than 300 in January before starting to increase again.
Since January 11 the country’s primary, middle and high school students have gradually returned to their classrooms after attending online lessons since the start of the second lockdown. Greece’s retail stores have also reopened under restrictions.
Last Friday the authorities extended the nighttime curfew from 6 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. and ordered the closure of retail stores during weekends in the so-called red zones, like Attica. They also announced a complete lockdown for five municipalities across Greece.