Hardalias: A different Christmas with curfews, restricted church services and no carols

Citizens should keep up with all safety measures and restrictions over the holiday season, to prevent facing a new coronavirus outbreak early in the new year, said Deputy Minister for Civil Protection & Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias in a live briefing held on Tuesday.

At the televised briefing, which has held in place of this Friday’s (Christmas Day) regular briefing, the minister reiterated that up to two related families may gather at homes for the holidays, but up to nine people total. It is best to restrict socializing to the closest circle possible, he said. “This Christmas will be different for all of us, same as Easter was, during the first nationwide lockdown earlier in the year,” Hardalias noted.

The current daily curfew (22:00 to 05:00) will remain in effect throughout the holidays, with no exception for either Christmas and New Year’s Eve and Day proper. He also ruled out the traditional Christmas and New Year’s carols that children do door to door.

Concerning churches, Hardalias reiterated they will be open only on three specific days, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Epiphany Day (January 6), under strict rules: one person in every 15 square meters, each person keeping a 2-meter distance in all directions. Churches are only be allowed a maximum of 25 people inside, while metropolises may hold a maximum of 50 at any time on these three dates. (Earlier government announcements also banned loudspeakers during liturgies on those days and gathering at church courtyards.)

The current epidemiological profile in the region of Kozani – where seven-day tight lockdown restrictions were imposed last week, along with West Attica – shows 367 active cases of infection with a median age of 54 years. Nearly 80 percent of infected people are showing Covid-19 symptoms, with 47.58 pct of these presenting primary ones, said the minister

Unlike Kozani, the three locked-down municipalities of West Attica now exhibit a better endemiological profile: only 31.94 pct of infections there present primary Covid-19 symptoms, with 179 active cases currently at Aspropyrgos, 78 at Elefsina, and 25 at Mandra. This is the result of the local stricter measures, said Hardalias, which are in effect until Friday but could be extended if health experts decide it is necessary.

Active cases dropping

The drop of active coronavirus cases in Greece is continuing, University of Athens Medical School professor Gkikas Magiorkinis said on Tuesday, with few exceptions.

Speaking at the live briefing for the development of the pandemic in Greece, the Ministry of Health experts committee member said that the downward trend was visible overall at national level, which also meant a drop in the pressure on the health system. “The situation at intensive care units (ICUs) however remains extremely burdened,” he noted.

In Attica, he said, the number of new diagnoses last week continued to drop, up to 15 pct compared to a fortnight ago, while in Thessaloniki it is shrinking at a much faster rate, up to 28 pct. “We should note again that the epidemiological load in Thessaloniki is up to three times higher than that of Athens,” Magiorkinis said.

Two areas with “particularly high virus loads” are West Attica and Kozani, in northern Greece.

As the doctor warned, “The morbidity’s downward rate is definitely much lower than its upward rate, which began early in November, showing that the epidemic can take a dramatic turn for the worse over a short time, but it then de-escalates slowly and with difficulty.”

“This is a tough fact and it is what prevents us from celebrating Christmas this year, as we were used to,” he added.

NHS doctors sign up for vaccination

The majority of staff in the National Health System (NHS), including doctors, have so far signed up for coronavirus inoculation, said Deputy Health Minister Vassilis Kontozamanis said at the briefing.

The deputy minister dispelled reports that NHS staff feel reluctant to proceed with the vaccine, saying that “among doctors, over 70 percent have signed up for vaccination.”

Nurses, doctors, and all medical staff in public hospitals will be the first to receive the vaccines when they arrive in the country in a few days, he underlined.