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Athens cautious as Greece prepares for another Christmas with COVID

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By Fay Doulgkeri
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People make their way at a central market street in Athens, Sunday, Dec.19, 2021.
People make their way at a central market street in Athens, Sunday, Dec.19, 2021.   -   Copyright  Yorgos Karahalis / AP

The residents of Athens will be able to celebrate Christmas with fewer restrictions than last year, despite the Greek capital preparing for the festive season in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic for a second time.

But many people have already said they will be careful not to attend big gatherings.

"I am not planning something with a lot of people, only with family members, as protected as it gets," a resident told Euronews.

"I will spend the holidays with my family, at home, a little bit of going out, carefully, wearing masks. We need to vaccinate all to have the right Christmas like we used to," another added.

During the festive season, people will be able to enter enclosed spaces with the help of two free self-tests, but not with rapid tests as initially discussed by the government.

Greek authorities recommend that these two tests be taken before social gatherings.

"I think the government is handling the situation well, we don't want a closed economy or closed schools, we want to continue with the other measures that they take, with prevention by ourselves," said a resident of the Greek capital.

Restaurants and bar owners say they are satisfied with the current measures, as businesses are allowed to remain open after the huge economic blow they suffered in previous months.

"Only people that are vaccinated are allowed to enter, we have taken all the measures, so I can say that we are on a very good path. What scares us are new variants that we don't know what they will bring," expressed business owner Vaggelis Pitteros.

"I think that the measures for the vaccinated and the non-vaccinated were taken in good time. In the rest of the European countries like the UK, the Netherlands and Austria, measures were delayed very much and there was freedom, vaccinated and non-vaccinated were everywhere, outside and inside," he went on.

Christmas celebrations will go ahead in Athens despite the new Omicron variant pushing other European countries to impose stricter restrictions.

In Greece, the new variant has not yet prevailed in the country, the only reason why measures have not been tightened, according to government information.

However, the government and experts will keep closely monitoring the developments and warn that they are ready to take further action, if necessary.