Greece is cracking down on travel within its own borders in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus, with police checking all cars heading towards the provinces from large cities. Since 6 p.m. (1700 GMT) on Wednesday, police controls were set up on all highways and country roads.
“Only those who can prove that they live in the province can continue their journey,” the head of civil protection, Nikos Chardalias, told the state television broadcaster. The restrictions also apply to all flight and ferry connections. Violators will face a fine of 300 euros (326 dollars).
Police had until Wednesday been enforcing travel restrictions at random.
Now, officers are systematically checking for compliance with the new restrictions at toll booths and important intersections.
The coastguard is issuing ferry tickets only to people who can prove they’re from the destination island and live there.
Greece had introduced its first restrictions at the end of March, closing schools, restaurants, bars and shops to stop the virus.
The country with a population of 10.5 million people has one of the lowest death tolls from the coronavirus, at 83 people so far.
Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim
Egypt, Greece agree on rejecting foreign intervention in Libya
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi held a phone call on Monday with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on the recent developments in Libya.
“The two sides agreed on rejecting the intervention by foreign parties in Libya,” Bassam Radi, spokesperson of the presidency, said in a statement.
He added the intervention in the war-torn country has only added complications to the crisis and brought benefits for the interfering parties at the expense of the interests of Libyan people.
The two leaders demanded to mobilize the international community efforts to stand against any intervention that would also threatens the security and stability of the regional neighboring and European countries, Radi added.
Libya has been locked in a civil war since the ouster and killing of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Greece reports 2 new COVID-19 cases, restaurants and bars to reopen
Greece recorded two new COVID-19 cases and no deaths within the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry announced on Sunday.
The total number of cases in the country now stands at 2,878, and the death toll, at 171. Currently, 19 people are being treated in intensive care units.
On Monday, the country will enter the fourth phase of the government’s plan to lift COVID-19 restrictive measures. Restaurants, cafes, and bars can reopen, while traveling to and from all Greek islands is permitted following stringent health protocols.
“The epidemiological data is good so far and the recommendations are followed,” Nikos Hardalias, deputy minister for Civil Protection and Crises Management at the Ministry of Citizen Protection, said during a press briefing.
5.2-magnitude quake hits Ierapetra, Greece: USGS
An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.2 jolted 82 km SSW of Ierapetra, Greece at 22:50:12 GMT on Saturday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
The epicenter, with a depth of 10.0 km, was initially determined to be at 34.2861 degrees north latitude and 25.509 degrees east longitude.
5.1-magnitude quake hits 58km SSE of Ierapetra, Greece — USGS
A 5.1-magnitude earthquake jolted 58km southeast of Ierapetra, Greece at 0340 GMT on Friday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
The epicenter, with a depth of 10.0 km, was initially determined to be at 34.5007 degrees north latitude and 25.8881 degrees east longitude.
Greece reports 3 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths over last 24 hours
Greece’s Health Ministry announced on Thursday that three new COVID-19 cases and two deaths were recorded within the past 24 hours.
The total number of COVID-19 infections in the country now stands at 2,853 since Feb. 26 when the first case was registered, and the death toll at 168.
Currently, 21 people were being treated in intensive care units (ICUs), while 98 have been discharged from ICUs.
So far, Greek authorities have conducted 144,078 diagnostic tests.
Although Greece has been publishing encouraging figures on new COVID-19 infections, officials reiterated the need for vigilance and caution.
“We should keep social distances, avoid crowded places and stay home if we have symptoms. I hope we return to normalcy. The way back is not easy,” Sotirios Tsiodras, an infectious diseases expert, noted during a press briefing here on Thursday.
Greece was under full lockdown from March 23 as part of measures to contain the spread of the virus. Since May 4, the government has started gradually lifting restrictive measures.
Greece lifted travel restrictions to the prefectures on the mainland and Crete island on May 18 and will lift the restrictions to all the other islands on May 25.
During Thursday’s briefing, Nikos Hardalias, deputy minister for Civil Protection and Crisis Management at the Ministry of Citizen Protection, stressed that depending on developments travelers from countries with high epidemiological evidence will not be allowed to visit Greece this summer.
The tourism sector will gradually restart in June and as of July 1 international flights to airports across Greece will start.
5.7-magnitude quake hits Greece
An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.7 jolted 224 km southwest of Methoni, Greece, at 2:43 on Thursday (2343 GMT on Wednesday), the U.S. Geological Survey said.
The epicenter, with a depth of 20.22 km, was initially determined to be at 35.1547 degrees north latitude and 20.2872 degrees east longitude.
Methoni is a seaside town in Peloponnese region, southern Greece. There were no immediate reports of injuries or significant damage.
5.7-magnitude quake hits Greece — USGS
An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.7 jolted 226 km southwest of Methoni, Greece at 02:43 on Thursday (2343 GMT on Wednesday), the U.S. Geological Survey said.
Feature: Soufli in Greece strives to revive centuries-old silk tradition
For several centuries, the history of Soufli, a small town in northeastern Greece close to the Evros river that marks the country’s national border with Turkey, has been interlinked with a delicate product: silk.
The local silk industry, which has survived numerous challenges over the past decades, reached a critical junction recently, some of the last remaining producers told Xinhua in recent interviews.
“Silk was brought here from China. The Byzantines brought it. According to historians, it was Emperor Justinian I who brought it around 550 A.D. The Byzantines loved this product. It was also a symbol of wealth and aristocracy. Only a few people would use silk, mainly the nobility at the palace,” George Tsiakiris, owner of the Tsiakiris Silkhouse and president of the Association of Professionals, Craftsmen and Traders of Soufli, explained.
In 1453 A.D. Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks, and the Byzantine Empire, the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces, came to an end — but silk production had strong roots there.
It survived the collapse of an empire, industrialization, the arrival of cheap synthetic materials, such as nylon and rayon in the 1960s, followed by the decline of the Greek textile industry, as well as the acute debt crisis, which erupted in Greece ten years ago testing all households and businesses, Tsiakiris noted.
Successive generations of residents of Soufli grew up cultivating the trees silkworms are being fed with, nurturing the cocoons and creating high-quality silk, said Tsiakiris, a fourth-generation silk professional. His great grandmother was a weaver. His father and uncle established the Tsiakiris Silkhouse in 1954.
The local industry flourished in the 19th century and Soufli’s silk was exported to Milan and Lyon, he told Xinhua.
Silk production was the backbone of the local economy for the largest part of the 20th century, it was on its deathbed by the mid-1990s and the last major financial crisis, which lasted until 2018, was the last blow, he said.
Today, only two factories, including the one owned by the Tsiakiris family, and three smaller silk houses remain active, employing a few dozen people.
During the financial crisis, an effort was launched to revive Soufli’s silk industry. Greek fashion brands and designers started using Soufli’s silk products in their creations and Tsiakiris and his colleagues explored new opportunities for cooperation beyond Greece’s borders.
“CRISIS WAS A GOOD TEST”
“The years of the crisis were a very good test for us. On the one hand, our stamina was tested, on the other hand, we were given the motive, we were forced to look abroad and search for new partnerships and make Soufli’s silk fashionable again, because it was out of fashion,” he explained.
“Today, we can proudly say that we have kept silk alive all these years. There is great interest today in silk. I think we are at a juncture and I believe that the current momentum prompts us to progress,” Tsiakiris told Xinhua.
“Soufli would always rely on domestic clients. Gradually we see in the past 2-3 years that Soufli has started to receive foreign visitors as well. We see Scandinavians, we see Chinese, just a few for now, we see people from France, Spain, Portugal, entire Europe,” said Giorgos Bouroulitis, another silk maker representing Bourouliti Silk House and the association’s tourism committee.
“The crisis years were difficult for Soufli. Silk is a luxury product and like it happened with all luxury products once the crisis started people cut back on all things that were unnecessary,” he said.
“The financial situation in the country is not helpful for a product which has a high cost, which is expensive. However, there are people who are still choosing it and like it,” Bouroulitis told Xinhua.
HOPING MORE YOUNG PEOPLE WILL JOIN IN
“I am the youngest in the sector currently. I hope more (young people) will join in. I wish they will join, it is a necessity. Older generations taught us what they should. I hope people will continue to work on this,” he said.
In order to promote and preserve the rich local tradition in silk production and inspire a few younger people to continue it, the Tsiakiris family has established one of the local museums dedicated to Soufli’s silk industry.
George Tsiakiris is also director of the “Art of Silk Museum,” which is housed in a renovated neoclassical building erected in 1886.
“We created this very beautiful space with one purpose — to introduce visitors to the art of silk, show them how silk is made. We have already welcomed over 100,000 visitors during the 11 years of operation. This has given a lot to this region,” he told Xinhua.
Romania not to join Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia in easing travel restrictions: minister
Romania has not reached an agreement with Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia to ease travel restrictions among them following a quadrilateral video conference, as the country has a specific epidemic situation and will focus on domestic tourism this year, Romanian Economy Minister Virgil Popescu said on Tuesday.
Romanian Prime Minister Ludovic Orban attended an informal meeting earlier in the day, with his Bulgarian and Greek counterparts and Serbian president, respectively, as the four leaders discussed possible future measures to ease travel restrictions among the four states.
Popescu told local media after the meeting that his country would focus on domestic tourism this year, mentioning as well the current epidemic situation, which must be assessed at the weekend, one week after the end of the state of emergency.
According to him, Romania would talk about tourism in June, only if it would have a positive evaluation for this week and next week, in the sense that the number of infections would remain within normal limits.
The official specified that the position of the government is a prudent one and Romania must wait for more relaxation.
Regarding the concerns of officials from the other three neighboring countries for fluid traffic, he said the safety of Romanian citizens is more important than launching a traffic situation that is not well assessed.
At the video conference, which was also attended by the ministers of interior, foreign affairs, tourism, health and transport of the four countries, Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia reached an agreement to allow tourists from the three countries to travel without a quarantine period of 14 days, from June 1.
Roundup: Greece to allow travel to all its islands next week
The Greek authorities will allow travel to and from all its islands starting from May 25, officials announced here on Tuesday during a regular press briefing.
The decision was made as the gradual rollback of the measures implemented in the past few months to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in the country was undergoing well, said Nikos Hardalias, Deputy Minister for Civil Protection and Crisis Management at the Ministry of Citizen Protection.
Greece was under full lockdown from March 23 till May 4 and in the past two weeks the government has started to ease the measures.
Since the first case was reported on Feb. 26 in Greece, a total of 2,840 infections have been diagnosed, including 165 fatalities.
The average age of the deceased was 75 years and 94 percent had underlying health conditions and/or were above 70 years of age, the expert noted.
Currently 22 patients were being treated in intensive care units and 95 have so far been discharged from ICUs.
Tsiodras welcomed “the endorsement by more than 100 countries, including China and Australia, of the European Union’s resolution for an independent evaluation of the management of the pandemic on the global level, by the WHO (World Health Organization), as well as by countries, during WHO’s ministerial meeting yesterday.”
“We all have to take lessons from the pandemic and its management so far,” stressed the Greek expert, according to an e-mailed press release issued by the Health Ministry.
Most of the businesses which had closed earlier this spring have reopened, as well as archaeological sites and all middle and high schools. A decision on whether elementary schools will open on June 1 will be announced next Monday, Hardalias said.
Until May 31, a quarantine rule on all arrivals on the limited number of flights landing at Athens International Airport will remain in place, said the deputy minister.
A total of 46,000 people had entered Greece since the start of the outbreak in the country, he added.
5.8-magnitude quake hits Ierapetra, Greece: USGS
An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.8 jolted 91 km SSW of Ierapetra of Greece at 23:22:35 GMT on Monday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
The epicenter, with a depth of 10 km, was initially determined to be at 34.2018 degrees north latitude and 25.526 degrees east longitude.
Greece marks Int’l Museum Day as archaeological sites reopen after two months
Greece celebrated International Museum Day on Monday digitally with the country’s museums still closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, more than 200 archaeological sites reopened for the first time after two months, as the country continues on the path to the “new normality.”
Greece was in full lockdown from March 23 until May 4, but in the past two weeks has gradually started easing restrictive measures.
Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou visited the Athens Acropolis on the day.
“The marbles were shining in the sun, as in the verse of George Seferis. With care for our unique cultural monuments, with love and recognition of their eternal value – and the strict, of course, observance of health measures – we will all rise together a little higher,” she told Xinhua and other media, pointing to a poem by one of the most important Greek poets of the 20th century and Nobel laureate.
“Just a little more and we shall see the almond trees in blossom, the marbles shining in the sun, the sea, the curling waves. Just a little more, let us rise just a little higher,” Seferis had written.
The archaeological sites are the first category of cultural sites to return to normal operation in Greece. On June 1 open-air cinemas will open, followed by museums on June 15 and art events a month later, as Culture Minister Lina Mendoni has announced.
They will all operate with all the necessary safety measures. On the Acropolis hill on Monday, the staff had face masks on, visitors were strongly advised to use also, along with antiseptics, and social distancing rules were applied.
“Now we must all combine our visit, the joy offered by the monuments, archaeological sites, and our museums in a while, with the safety measures. Greek and foreign visitors should feel absolutely safe inside archaeological sites,” Mendoni, who accompanied Sakellaropoulou, said.
Ian Coe, a British living in Greece, was among the few visitors of the Sacred hill.
“It has been fantastic, absolutely beautiful. (I was) very fortunate to be here today with a few people as it is reopened. It is a strange experience for everybody. We have to be careful, we have to wash, use the mask, take precaution, look after each other, but in Greece, you have done a very good job dealing with the problem,” he said.
In addition to archaeological sites all middle and high schools nationwide, as well as shopping malls reopened Monday, under restrictions.
Greek authorities have given the green light for the reopening since May 4 of most of the businesses which had closed during the lockdown.
Restaurants, cafes, and bars will return to business on May 25 and hotels on June 1.
On Monday, Greece’s Health Ministry announced two new confirmed COVID-19 cases and two more deaths within the past 24 hours.
The total of confirmed infections across Greece now stands at 2,836, with 165 deaths, according to an e-mailed ministry press statement.
5.3-magnitude quake hits 93 km south of Ierapetra, Greece — USGS
A 5.3-magnitude earthquake jolted 93 km south of Ierapetra, Greece, at 7:18 a.m. local time (0418 GMT) on Monday, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said.
The epicenter, with a depth of 10 km, was initially determined to be at 34.17 degrees north latitude and 25.61 degrees east longitude.
Ierapetra is a town on the south coast of the Mediterranean island Crete, the largest and most populous of the Greek islands.
Greece reports 2,834 COVID-19 cases, reopens more businesses
Greece’s Health Ministry announced on Sunday that COVID-19 infections in the country totaled 2,834, with 163 deaths since the start of the outbreak.
Since Saturday, 15 new cases were diagnosed and one patient died, officials told a regular press briefing.
Currently, 22 people are being treated in intensive care units, according to a press release.
Meanwhile, the country continues to take steps towards normalcy, with the implementation of the third phase of easing coronavirus restrictions.
Greece imposed a full lockdown on March 23, and restrictive measures are gradually lifted since May 4.
On Monday, shopping malls, outlets, and businesses offering dietary and body care services are opening.
The use of face mask is mandatory or strongly recommended by the government. Customers in all stores must maintain a distance of at least 1.5 meters and the number of customers allowed inside each store would depend on the size of the premises.
Archeological sites, zoos, and botanical gardens are also reopening on Monday under strict protection rules.
Starting from Monday, travel between different regions will also be allowed, as well as travel to and from Greek islands of Crete and Evia.
Officials presented on Sunday health protocols for the safe transportation by train, airplane, and bus. The use of mask is mandatory for passengers in all public transports. If possible, passengers are advised to use electronic services when issuing or validating their tickets. A distance of at least 1.5 meters should be maintained for passengers and crew members at all times.
Greece to reopen restaurants, cafes, shopping malls in May as COVID-19 cases climb to 2,819
Greece continues to ease its anti-coronavirus restrictions as the country’s total infections climbed to 2,819 on Saturday with nine new cases reported over the last 24 hours.
The Health Ministry said on Saturday that two deaths from COVID-19 had been reported over the 24-hour period, bringing the country’s death toll from the disease to 162 since the start of the outbreak in the country on Feb. 26. So far, a total of 126,283 diagnostic tests have been carried out across the country.
With cautious steps, shopping malls, diet centers, zoos and botanical gardens will reopen on May 18, the Ministry of Development and Investments announced in an e-mailed press statement.
The ministry stressed the necessity of wearing protective face mask and observing 1.5-meter distance while people are in enclosed shopping malls.
Restaurants and cafes will be open for business again on May 25, a week earlier than the initial planning, the ministry also announced on Saturday.
Greece was under full lockdown since March 23 until May 4, when the government started to gradually lift restrictive measures.
After the reopening of a few schools and shops in the past two weeks, more and more restrictions on economic and social life, like traveling, are eased.
Roundup: Greece reports 40 new COVID-19 cases, 4 deaths within 24 hours, as steps to return to normalcy continue
Greece’s Health Ministry announced on Friday 40 new confirmed COVID-19 cases within the past 24 hours, bringing to 2,810 infections the total in the country since Feb. 26 when the first case was registered.
Among the new confirmed cases are 35 residents from a Roma settlement on the outskirts of the city of Larissa, in the region of Thessaly, in central Greece, officials told a regular press briefing.
The authorities decided a 14-day local curfew as part of the emergency measures to be imposed in the area after testing 600 residents.
The same settlement of roughly 3,000 people had been placed in quarantine in early April after a dozen residents tested positive.
Four patients have died in the past few hours, raising the death toll to 160.
The latest count was given as Greece continues to take steps towards normalcy. The country was in full lockdown March 23 until May 4, when the government started to gradually lift restrictive measures.
After the reopening of a few schools and shops in the past few days, as of May 18 shopping malls will also go back to business, two weeks earlier than initial planning, Adonis Georgiadis, Minister of Development and Investments, told Greek national broadcaster ERT on Friday.
Also on Monday, restrictions on travel and transport between different prefectures, including Crete island, will be lifted.
Nikos Hardalias, deputy minister for Civil Protection and Crises Management at the Ministry of Citizen Protection, presented the health protocols concerning ferry transport during Friday’s press briefing.
In an attempt to restart sea travel and the tourism sector, a major source of revenue for the country, passengers and crew will have to follow certain rules guided by the need to protect public health.
Ferries will travel with a maximum of 50 percent of their usual passenger capacity and 55 percent if they have cabins. Cabins will be used by one occupant unless that person is traveling with family members or assistants.
All passengers will have their temperatures taken during boarding, the use of cloth masks by passengers and crew is recommended, while a distance of at least 1.5 meters should be maintained for passengers and crew members at any moment.
The new measures will be in effect until June 15 and are going to be evaluated, depending on the course of the pandemic.
Hardalias announced also that a flight ban between Greece and seven countries (Albania, Italy, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom) has been extended at least until May 31 to protect public health from the further spread of the COVID-19. Until May 31, the few international flights will continue to land only at Athens International Airport.
In addition, Greece’s borders will remain temporarily closed to non-EU nationals at least until the end of May, Hardalias said.
In pics: view of newly remodeled Omonia Square in Athens, Greece
A visitor poses for photos at the newly remodeled Omonia Square, a historic landmark in Athens, Greece, on May 14, 2020. The new face of Omonia Square, featuring a big illuminated fountain, was unveiled on Thursday by Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis. (Photo by Lefteris Partsalis/Xinhua)
Greece reports 2,770 coronavirus cases, 156 deaths
Greece’s Health Ministry reported on Thursday that the number of coronavirus infections reached 2,770 and there have been 156 deaths since the start of the outbreak in the country on Feb. 26.
Over the past 24 hours, ten new cases have been diagnosed and one patient has died, officials said at a regular press briefing.
Currently, 24 people are being treated in intensive care units (ICUs), and 90 have been discharged from ICUs.
Infectious diseases expert Professor Sotiris Tsidoras, coronavirus spokesman of the Greek Health Ministry, said that four separate studies are being conducted in the country to help scientists gain a better understanding of the percentage of the population that has been infected with the novel coronavirus.
So far, the Greek authorities have conducted 116,233 diagnostic tests, he said.
Tsidoras agreed with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recent prediction that the coronavirus may never go away even after a vaccine is found.
Greece was in a full coronavirus lockdown between March 23 and May 4, when the government started to gradually lift the restrictions.
Greece marks International Nurses Day
Artists perform for medical workers at Metaxa hospital in Athens, Greece, on May 12, 2020. International Nurses Day was celebrated on Tuesday in hospitals and medical centers in Greece with speeches and concerts. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
Feature: Greece honors frontline health workers on Int’l Nurses Day
On the occasion of International Nurses Day on Tuesday, Greece’s President Katerina Sakellaropoulou and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis thanked the frontline healthcare professionals on behalf of the Greek people for their valuable work in the ongoing battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a symbolic gesture, Sakellaropoulou visited Evangelismos Hospital in the center of Athens and praised doctors, nurses and all hospital workers for their “self-sacrifice” to save lives.
“(I want to express) a huge thank you for everything you have done, to all of you who have been on the frontline against this unprecedented health crisis,” Mitsotakis said during a video conference with the heads of nursing departments at 12 coronavirus referral state hospitals throughout the country.
During the video conference, the Greek prime minister acknowledged that one of the major and chronic shortages faced by the national health system was in the number of its nursing staff, with Greece ranking in the last positions in Europe for the number of nursing staff per citizen, based on population, according to an e-mailed press release issued by his office.
Mitsotakis pledged further support to reinforce the health services with additional staff and improve working conditions and services provided.
“It was difficult, we were not afraid, we did not lay down our arms for a moment. On the contrary, we were stubborn, we responded to the maximum,” Vagia Zagana, director of nursing services at Sotiria Hospital, said during the conference, expressing gratitude for the assistance provided by the state so far.
Meanwhile, the Panhellenic Federation of Public Hospital Employees (POEDIN) staged protests at the yards of public hospitals, demanding more government aid as soon as possible.
Protesters on Tuesday asked for the hiring of 3,000-4,000 new staff per year to meet needs.
“We honor the contribution of the nurses. Without their help nothing would work. Positions have been announced, but not one nurse has yet come to our hospital,” Sophia Hatzidou, head of the cardiology department at Alexandra Hospital and president of the union of the hospital’s personnel, told Xinhua and other media on Tuesday.
“We are entering periods of quarantine. We face suspicious cases regularly. As a result, the entire nursing and obstetrics department has been weakened. We face the specter of closure of units. We are requesting practical support,” she said.
“Sixteen thousand colleagues are in flexible forms of employment. They cover permanent needs, they have been fighting against the coronavirus, and they must be awarded indefinite contracts,” Michalis Giannakos, POEDIN’s president, said.
Despite the shortcomings and the pressure on the national health system, the Greek authorities’ swift implementation of strict restrictive measures and the Greek citizens’ compliance have earned the country international praise for managing to flatten the novel coronavirus‘ curve.
On May 4, Greece started to gradually lift the restrictive measures. The first students went back to school on May 11, many stores have reopened in the past week, and restaurants, cafeterias and hotels are due to open on June 1.
At a press conference organized by the Health Ministry on Tuesday, Greek officials announced that people will be allowed to move freely across the mainland and to and from the island of Crete as of May 18. On March 23, the authorities banned travel between different prefectures as part of efforts to control the spread of the virus.
Concerning the rest of Greece’s islands, only permanent residents and professionals who need to finish work on time for the restart of the tourism sector are currently allowed to travel from and to the mainland.
At the same press briefing, officials also announced that 18 new COVID-19 cases have been recorded in Greece in the last 24 hours, and one new death.
The total number of infections since the start of the outbreak now stands at 2,744, including 152 deaths.