Greece will extend some of the current nationwide lockdown restrictions to Jan. 7, 2021, in order to control the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, it was announced here on Monday.
The new lockdown in Greece started on Nov. 7 and was initially scheduled to end on Nov. 30, but in light of the surging case numbers, it was first extended to Dec. 7 and then to Dec. 14.
Shops selling seasonal decorations opened on Monday and hairdressers and retail shops will gradually reopen in the coming days, government spokesperson Stelios Petsas told a regular press briefing outlining a roadmap to a "safe return to normality."
Citizens will still have to inform the authorities via SMS or in writing when leaving their homes.
Schools, courts, sports venues, hospitality and entertainment venues will remain closed until Jan. 7.
"We are not content with the pace the number of new infections is decreasing," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in an interview broadcast on Monday on local Alpha TV, warning people against complacency.
A mass vaccination campaign is scheduled to begin early next year, he said, and the economy will also gradually restart, but entertainment venues may not reopen before May, he noted.
The government will decide in the coming days whether to relax the 9.00 p.m. to 5.00 a.m. curfew during the upcoming holidays, Petsas said.
Family gatherings will continue to be limited to nine people, and the current travel restrictions will also remain in force, he said.
Those returning to Greece from abroad between Dec. 18 and Jan. 7 will be required to present a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test and be subjected to a rapid test upon entry, and quarantine for ten days.
On Monday the Hellenic National Public Health Organization (EODY) announced 1,251 new COVID-19 cases within 24 hours, bringing the total confirmed infections to 116,721 since Feb. 26, when the first case was registered in Greece.
Furthermore, 89 patients have died since Sunday, which brings the total number of fatalities to 3,092. Six hundred people are currently intubated.
As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, countries including France, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States are racing to find a vaccine.
According to the website of the World Health Organization, as of Nov. 26, there were 213 COVID-19 candidate vaccines being developed worldwide, and 49 of them were in clinical trials.