Greece on Wednesday banned music in bars and restaurants in a bid to limit New Year’s Eve parties as the government attempts to fight the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant.
“Omicron is now the dominant strain and the public health system is under pressure,” Health Minister Thanos Plevris said in a televised address.
From Thursday and until January 16, “restaurants and entertainment venues will only be able to host tables of six people and music will be banned,” he said.
“Bars and restaurants will close at midnight, but will be authorised to stay open until 2 am on December 31 — still without music,” he added. Greece has been forced to implement new measures earlier than expected as daily cases soar, announcing on Wednesday a new 24-hour record of 28,828 Covid-19 infections.
As part of the new restrictions, initially planned for January 3, 50 percent of employees in the public and private sectors should work from home, up from 20 percent previously.
Catering staff and people who want to go grocery shopping or take public transport must wear either a FFP2 face mask or two medical masks one on top of the other. All public New Year’s Eve events have been cancelled, and the minister urged Greeks to test for Covid before any necessary family gatherings.
Greece has recorded 1,134,713 coronavirus cases and 20,636 related deaths since the start of the pandemic.
On December 14, the country said a record 130 people had died of Covid in 24 hours, but that daily figure has since dropped below 100.
On Wednesday, Greece announced another 72 people had died of the virus.