ATHENS (REUTERS) - Greece will lift some Covid-19 lockdown restrictions next week as part of a plan to gradually reopen the economy and relieve national fatigue even as its hospitals remain under severe pressure from stubbornly high infections, authorities said on Friday (March 19).
Hair and beauty salons and archaeological sites will open from Monday, Akis Skertsos, deputy minister to the prime minister, told a weekly news briefing.
"It is imperative to provide some breaths of freedom, some depressurisation valves, so that the remaining measures can be complied with," Skertsos said, adding that the government plans to provide free rapid tests to all citizens.
As part of the loosening of restrictions, a nighttime curfew nationwide will start two hours later at 9 p.m. during weekends, he said.
Greece has fared better than many other European countries, but a surge of Covid-19 infections forced the government in November to re-impose a lockdown it had previously lifted.
Non-essential shops, restaurants and schools are closed.
With Covid-19 infections surging, the government is increasingly struggling to manage the public health emergency, with state hospitals under severe stress despite the ongoing lockdown.
Athens accounts for roughly half of the Covid-19 cases detected in Greece each day and the capacity of public hospitals to deal with the influx of patients is being stretched.
Health authorities have urged private sector doctors to help the public health system.
"The pressure on the national health system is the big challenge. About 4,600 Covid-19 patients are currently hospitalised, more than half of which in the Athens area," Vana Papaevangelou, a member of the committee of infectious disease experts advising the government, told the briefing.
On Friday health authorities reported 2,785 new coronavirus cases and 64 deaths, bringing total infections to 233,079 since the first case was detected in February last year and Covid-related deaths to 7,361.