The region of Attica in Greece (which includes Athens) enters a new phase of lockdown today, the “hard” lockdown, in an effort to keep hospitalizations low and to lower viral loads. This is a big step from the lockdown that has been in effect (in one way or another) since early November and is in response to the hospitalization rates climbing as well as the viral load doubling in recent days.
New Hard Lockdown for Millions in Greece
This version of the hard lockdown is similar to what was experienced back the spring of 2020 and is a blow to many in Greece as they head back indoors until the end of February. This hits the retail sector especially hard since February is traditionally a month of sales which helps retailers move stock and see profits rise. This year, retailers were actually low on stock for a variety of things since the lockdown was anticipated and they did not want to be stuck with more than they could sell.
At present, this hard lockdown is only for Attica (which is the region that includes Athens) and is in response to two factors – the shrinking number of hospital beds available as hospitalization rates climb and the doubling of the viral load that has been identified in the public sewers. This last part has doubled for Thessaloniki (Greece’s second largest city) as well but the hospital numbers there are not at the number yet that would call for a hard lockdown. Yet, it is expected that this could happen here as well.
This happens just a short 2.5 months from the time that many had hoped the tourist season could begin. Vaccination rates in Greece currently sit at 5% of the population and is moving slower than hoped for which may also affect the opening of the country on the hoped for timetable.
Here is what lockdown in Greece currently looks like as well as what additional measures are in place for Athens. At this time, even domestic air travel is only for essential purposes and people are not supposed to travel outside of the region of their permanent residence.
Notification of Movement
This was brought back in November and is a way to let the authorities know you are moving and that it is for one of the pre-approved reasons. This can be done through filling out and carrying a paper form or sending a free SMS to 13033 for one of the following reasons:
- Visit to a pharmacy or doctor
- Visit to a supermarket for store (if they do not deliver)
- Visit to a bank (if online transactions are not possible)
- Visit to help people in need or to escort children to/from school
- Attend a funeral or visiting children (in the case of divorced parents)
- Physical exercise or exercising a pet
Without having this SMS or paper, it is punishable by a €300 fine.
For much of the population of Greece, there is a current curfew in place that runs from 9PM to 5AM but extends on the weekend to 6PM. The only people that are allowed to be out after the curfew time are people who have permission from their workplace or those walking pets (not even exercise is allowed after curfew).
Masks and Distancing
Distancing of 1.5 meters between people must be observed everywhere (technically, even for exercise and walking pets). In addition, masks must be worn at all times in public places – that includes outdoors. The exception is for exercise.
While all regular shops/stores are closed in much of the country, supermarkets remain open. However, these supermarkets are not allowed to sell items that are sold in other shops that have been forced to close – like towels, pans, toys, etc. In addition, each person is only allowed to be out for shopping for a max of two hours which begins at the time you send and receive approval via SMS for your movement.
The allowance for the number of people in supermarkets/mini markets has been lowered as well – one person per 25 sq meters of space inside the location.
Eating and Drinking
For restaurants, bars, and cafes, they remain closed for any indoor consumption with exceptions for those that want to offer takeaway services or offer delivery.
Additional Restrictions for Attica
In addition to the above (which are restrictions for many places, not just Attica), there are limits on means of travel as well. For public transport, they can only have 65% capacity. Ferries can operate at 50% capacity with 65% if it has cabins. Taxis are only allowed two passengers and private cars are only allowed two people which includes the driver. However, in both situations, underage children are not included in those limits.
Florists will be open only for a system called “click-away” which allows people to pre-order and then pick up outside – but they can only be open for February 13 – 14. In addition, car repair locations can stay open but appointments must be made. Other than this, supermarkets, bakeries, pharmacies, pet stores, telecommunication stores (but only for paying bills and repairs), dry cleaning, and gas stations will be allowed to be open at any time.
Of course, all museums and attractions are closed during this as well.
Finally, only special education schools will be allowed to be open. All of this is subject to fines if the rules are violated, starting at €300 and climbing into the thousands for people that organize anything that violates the movement restrictions.
Athens and the larger Attica region have entered into a hard lockdown today that is set to run until February 28. This is an attempt to drop the viral load and see the hospitalization rate decrease. With appearances of the South African variant, infection rates have been climbing and Greece is trying to keep it at bay while they continue their vaccination efforts. Greece’s Prime Minister says he sees light at the end of this tunnel but these measures are part of getting there.