Greek PM announces stricter lockdown
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.–File photo
A stricter anti-coronavirus lockdown will be imposed in Greece, in particular in the Athens region, during which schools and non-essential shops will be closed, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Tuesday.
The measures will start on Thursday and last until February 28, the premier said in a televised address.
He pointed to rising coronavirus infections, increasing numbers of hospitalisations in the Athens region and "the appearance of Covid variants which accelerate infections".
Kindergartens and primary and secondary schools that reopened just two weeks ago for the first time in two months will have to close again.
Churches and all shops except pharmacies, supermarkets, bakeries and petrol stations will also close, state TV ERT reported.
Earlier Tuesday, Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias warned that Greece is facing a third coronavirus wave.
"The analysis I am receiving from experts... shows this third wave is coming to our country too," Kikilias told Open TV.
Greece was hit with a first wave of the virus in March last year before infections eased off, surging again in autumn prompting the government to reimpose a nationwide lockdown.
In the greater Athens area, 71 percent of intensive care beds allotted for Covid patients are now occupied, the minister said. More than 270 patients are currently in intensive care.
Greece's number of cases rose by 1,526 on Tuesday -- jumping from a daily rise of 638 the day before -- with half of the infections in Athens.
The country has recorded 6,017 Covid deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Nearly 420,000 people in the country of 11 million have received at least one vaccine dose.
Greece has joined other EU states in limiting the use of AstraZeneca's vaccine to the under-65s as it awaits data on its efficacy.
Kikilias said studies on the impact of the AstraZeneca vaccine on those aged over 70 are expected by late February.
Greeks aged 60 to 64, and 75 to 79, are to receive jabs from next week in two separate groups.
Greece has been under national lockdown since November, with movement restricted between regions and people required to give a valid reason for leaving their homes.
Retail restrictions were eased for Christmas and the sales season last month, a move critics say drove infections up again.