Deputy Minister for Civil Protection Nikos Hardalias announced today that movement between municipalities will be allowed as of tomorrow, Greek Orthodox Holy Thursday, but that mandatory reporting via SMS of the hour and purpose of one’s movement will be extended until 15 May, when the government has decided that tourism from abroad will be permitted and citizens will be allowed to travel between prefectures.
Until now everyone has been required to report all movement by messaging the special 13033 line while movement to another prefecture was prohibited and movement between municipalities was permitted only on weekends.
Easter transportation, religious services restrictions
Hardalias also outlined Easter holiday public health restrictions designed to avoid crowding at churches and for the first time ever the government in cooperation with the Orthodox Church of Greece changed the timing of the midnight, Easter eve service to 9pm, drawing criticism from Orthodox traditionalists who insist that the event celebrated occurred on a Sunday.
The government has argued that there is mass movement of people who go to the homes of family and friends after the midnight service. It is unclear how that can be better limited at an earlier hour.
The spokesman for the National Committee on COVID-19, Gkikas Magiorkinis, asserted at a news conference that it was the Orthodox Church of Greece that proposed holding the midnight service earlier.
Good Friday services, which traditionally draws large crowds both inside churches and in the streets, will also be held differently this year. Whereas each year the Epitaphios or bier of Christ is carried in a litany through streets in a fairly large radius around churches, this year the litany will be restricted to Church courtyards.
The faithful this year will be allowed to venerate the Epitaphios only outside the church.
On Easter Sunday, when people traditionally gather at the homes of family and friends, just as on Easter eve, citizens will have to send an SMS with code number 6 in order to leave their homes.
Gatherings will be limited to the members of up to two families, with a maximum of nine people indoors and up to 12 outdoors.
Rules for the opening of restaurants, bars, and cafes
The government has decided after many months to open restaurants, cafes, and bars as of Monday, 3 May, and there again people will have to send an SMS with the 6 code.
Restaurants and cafes will be able to seat customers only outdoors and they will be prohibited from playing music.
According to press reports large numbers of people have already started making reservations at cafes. They will be allowed to operate until 11 pm.
The restaurant industry in Greece has been among the hardest hit by the pandemic after months of closure.
Owners are already feverishly preparing for the 3 May opening with proper distancing of outdoor tables and the restriction of up to six people per table.