Greece imposes 2-week lockdown in northern regions as flights are suspended
"The health situation in Thessaloniki is serious. We must act to avoid overloading the health system," government spokesman Stelios Petsas said on Monday.
The lockdown in the north will become effective on Tuesday and is set to last for a fortnight, while flights to and from Thessaloniki will be suspended.
The government is also expanding a night-time curfew on people's movements and on the opening of restaurants and bars in Greece's most populous areas for one month.
In high-risk areas, people will have to seek permission to leave their homes via text message.
Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias visited Thessaloniki on Monday after 1,300 new cases were registered there at the weekend. "The government rang a lot of alarm bells early, but some did not listen," Kikilias said.
Earlier this month, the government imposed lockdowns in the northern regions of Kozani and Kastoria.
On Saturday, PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced new restrictions in Athens and other major cities starting from Tuesday. He explained that the government will shut down cafes, clubs, cinemas, museums and gyms in the worst-hit areas. The curbs, however, will not affect retail businesses, hotels, hair salons and schools.
The use of masks is compulsory in indoor public spaces across the country.
Since February, Greece has registered more than 40,900 coronavirus cases, including over 1,600 on Sunday, with a total of 635 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
A nationwide lockdown was imposed in March, but such a decision now would "hurt the economy and society," Mitsotakis said, adding that the new curbs should not "freeze" daily life.
Movement between regions is not restricted, and the government has also promised to pay businesses that have to shut down some €1.5 billion ($1.74 billion).
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