Greece orders nationwide lockdown to curb ‘aggressive’ COVID-19 resurgence

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Athens, Oslo: Greece ordered a nationwide lockdown on Thursday for three weeks to help contain a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.

Under the new countrywide restrictions to take effect from Saturday, retail businesses will be shut with the exception of supermarkets and pharmacies. Civilians will need a time-slot permit to venture outdoors.

Greece has seen a surge in coronavirus infections since October.Credit:AP

Primary schools will stay open, but high schools will shut.

"I've chosen to take drastic measures sooner rather than later," Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

The country has reported fewer cases than most in Europe, mainly due to an early nationwide lockdown that it imposed when the pandemic broke out in February. It started unwinding those restrictions in May.

Since early October it has seen a surge in infections and has been reimposing curbs. The resurgence was "particularly aggressive", chief government scientific adviser Sotiris Tsiodras said, speaking alongside Mitsotakis.

Greece registered 2646 infections on Wednesday, the highest daily tally since its first case surfaced, bringing the total number of cases to 46,892. So far, 673 people have died of the disease.

Norway imposes new restrictions to limit virus spread

Prime Minister Erna Solberg told Norwegians to avoid travelling domestically and instead stay at home as much as possible as part of a new round of recommendations and restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus.

The number of cases has risen in many parts of Norway, hitting a record last week in a country which long had one of Europe's lowest rate of infections.

"We now see a sharp increase in the number of people testing positive. The situation is very serious, and … we don't have time to wait and see if the measures we introduced last week are enough," Solberg told Parliament.

Last week, Norway tightened restrictions on gatherings and foreign workers entering the country after a rise in coronavirus infections. Now, Norwegians are urged to stay at home as much as possible in the coming weeks and to limit their social interactions, and bars across the country now have to close at midnight.

Norway recorded a revised 3118 new COVID-19 cases last week, up from 1718 the week before – both higher than the previous peak of 1733 cases posted in the week March 16-22, according to data from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

Many countries which have tried to tighten restrictions have ended up locking down again and the government now prepares for further restrictions if it turns out these are necessary to avoid a collapse in health services, Solberg said.

"Remember that we are doing this for each other, to avoid serious illness and death…and to avoid coming back to where we were in March," she said.

Norway's total death toll from COVID-19 stood at 282 up to Thursday. Its 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants was 88.8 as of Wednesday, third-lowest in Europe behind Finland and Estonia, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Swedish Prime Minister self-isolating

Stefan Lofven, Sweden' Prime minister, said on Thursday he was self-isolating after he found out that a person close to him had met someone who was later confirmed to have COVID-19.

Lofven said the person close to him, who was not identified, had tested negative but that on medical advice, he and his wife would self-isolate.

"I am distance-working. We feel fine and do not have any symptoms," he said in a statement on Facebook.

He said he and his wife would take a coronavirus test as quickly as possible.

New cases in Sweden hit record highs last week and deaths have started to rise, while the resurgence has not yet at the levels seen in some European countries such as Belgium.

The surge in new cases, not least in Sweden's biggest urban regions, saw Stockholm forced to temporarily suspend home testing for the disease this week after it was overwhelmed with requests. The testing was due to resume on Thursday.

"We're heading in the wrong direction, fast," Lofven said. "Together we make sure that Sweden overcomes this challenge too."

Reuters

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