Greece Imposes Stricter Lockdown in Athens to Halt Virus Spread

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The Greek government has reintroduced a stricter lockdown in Athens and the surrounding Attica region in a bid to curb a recent spike in new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. The area accounts for around half of Greece’s population of almost 11 million.

“In the next two months the range of restriction measures will open and close depending on the alarm levels. It depends on us what will happen each time. But it is also the last mile to freedom,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a nationally televised address.

From Thursday, the retail sector and all schools will close until February 28 with a return to virtual lessons, he said.

Intensive care units in the region are running at a 71% occupancy rate for Covid-19 patients compared with 62% a week earlier, Health Minister Vasilis Kikilias said Tuesday.

Municipalities in Attica are seeing a worrying upward trend in overall infections, in addition to an 11% rise in the number of children under the age of 10 infected in the Jan. 24 to Jan. 30 period compared with the previous seven days, Kikilias said.

Athens was already classified as a so-called red zone, where the normal, nationwide 9 p.m. curfew moves up to 6 p.m. on weekends. Retail outlets were only able to operate through “click and collect” shopping.

Greece reported Tuesday the highest daily increase in new cases since December 10. The country has so far administered more than 417,500 vaccines, covering just under 4% of the population, with 332,812 people having received at least one dose.

The health ministry has said that it will limit the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to people under 65, with injections using that product due to begin Feb. 15.

“We know that from April we will be much better. But we must prevent the danger now,” Mitsotakis said.

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