Greece bans New Year’s music in venues amid COVID surge

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A medical staff member from the National Public Health Organization (EODY) performs a rapid COVID-19 test on a girl in Athens, Greece, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021. A government committee of medical experts is holding a meeting to emergency on Wednesday to consider accelerating planned restrictions after the daily number of COVID-19 infections more than doubled in one day to set a new record. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Greece’s health minister said on Wednesday that music would be banned in all commercial venues for New Year’s Eve celebrations under new restrictions announced in response to a rise in COVID-19 infections fueled by the omicron variant.

The restrictions, originally scheduled to take effect on January 3, will begin early Thursday after the daily number of infections soared to nearly 22,000 on Tuesday, more than double the record number reported the previous day.

Wednesday also saw a new record number of infections, with health authorities announcing 28,828 new cases of coronavirus. The country of around 11 million people is recording dozens of daily deaths from COVID-19, including 72 announced on Wednesday.

“Omicron is now the dominant variant in terms of new infections,” Health Minister Thanos Plevris said during a live briefing.

Much of the omicron remains unknown, including whether it causes more or less severe disease.

Greece’s measures include mandatory use of high-protection face masks in supermarkets and on public transport, shift changes and additional work-from-home orders for government employees, and strict capacity limits on sports venues.

Entertainment venues will close at midnight from Thursday, but will be allowed to remain open until 2 a.m. for New Year’s Eve.

Greece now has more than 1.1 million confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, and more than 20,600 deaths.

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