The 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic first appeared in Greece on 26 February 2020. Initial cases related to people who had travelled to Italy, as well as a group of pilgrims who had travelled to Israel and Egypt and their contacts.
As of 1 April 2020[update], there have been 1415 confirmed cases, 53 recoveries and 50 deaths. Health authorities recommend travellers who have returned from affected areas or people who have been in contact with them to stay home for a minimum of 14 days. It may take 2–14 days for symptoms to appear after initial exposure to the virus. Thirteen reporting hospitals have been designated to deal with cases. The main affected areas are Ilia and Attica.
Following the confirmation of the first three cases in Greece, on 27 February all carnival events in the country were initially cancelled, and by 10 March a total of 89 cases had been confirmed in the country, mainly related to people who had travelled to Italy and a group of pilgrims who had travelled to Israel and Egypt, as well as their contacts. Health and state authorities issued precautionary guidelines and recommendations, while measures up to that point were taken locally and included the closure of schools and the suspension of cultural events in the affected areas (particularly Ilia, Achaea and Zakynthos). However, on 10 March, due to the outbreak of the virus in different parts of the country and failure by many to comply with the restrictive measures, the government decided to suspend the operation of educational institutions of all levels nationwide and then, on 13 March, to close down all cafes, bars, museums, shopping centres, sports facilities and restaurants in the country. On 16 March, all retail shops were also closed, two villages in Kozani were quarantined, and all services in all areas of religious worship of any religion or dogma were suspended. On 18 and 19 March, the government announced a series of measures of more than 10 billion euros to support the economy, businesses and employees.
On 22 March the Greek authorities announced significant restrictions on all nonessential transport and movement across the country, starting from 6 a.m on 23 March. Movement outside the house is permitted only for specific reasons that include moving to or from the workplace, shopping for food or medicine, visiting a doctor or assisting a person in need of help and exercising outside individually or in pairs, among other reasons. Citizens leaving their home are required to carry their police ID or passport, as well as some type of attestation depending on the purpose of travel. The Hellenic Police, the Municipal Police, the Hellenic Coast Guard and the National Transparency Authority are empowered to enforce the restrictions and can issue fines for each offense.
On 26 February, the first case in Greece was confirmed. A 38-year-old woman from Thessaloniki, who had recently visited Milan, Νorthern Italy, tested positive and was admitted to AHEPA University Hospital. Her family, as well as those who came into contact with her, voluntarily isolated themselves.
On 27 February, two new cases in Greece were confirmed. The woman's nine-year-old child tested positive and was admitted to the same hospital as her mother. Additionally, a forty-year-old woman who had travelled to Italy, also tested positive and was admitted to Attikon University General Hospital. Following the confirmation of the second and third cases in Greece, it was announced that the 105th Primary School of Thessaloniki, where the first patient's daughter went to school, would close for fourteen days. The Minister of Health, Vasilis Kikilias, announced that all carnival events were cancelled throughout Greece.
On 28 February, the fourth case in Greece was confirmed. A 36-year-old woman from Athens who had recently travelled to Italy tested positive and was admitted to the Attikon University General Hospital. Eight state schools were closed as a precautionary measure in Attica to prevent the spread of the virus, and all educational travel abroad sponsored by Greek schools was halted.
On 29 February, three new cases in Greece were confirmed. A friend of the 38-year-old woman who was the first case in Greece, was admitted to the AHEPA University Hospital. Additionally, two more people in Athens were admitted to the General Hospital Sotiria, bringing the country total to seven confirmed cases.
On 4 March, two new cases were confirmed in Greece. A middle-aged man in close contact with the fifth confirmed case, tested positive and was put in solitary confinement at AHEPA University Hospital. Additionally, a man who had travelled to Israel and Egypt, was admitted to the General University Hospital of Patras, bringing the country total to nine confirmed cases.
On 5 March, 22 new cases were confirmed in Greece. The 66-year-old wife, who was the ninth case in Greece, tested positive and was admitted to the same hospital as her husband. 21 of their fellow travellers also tested positive, bringing the country total to 31 cases.
On 6 March, 14 new cases were confirmed in Greece. Eleven members of the Israel-Egypt travel group, as well as three people who afterwards came in contact with them, tested positive, bringing the country total to 45 confirmed cases. Schools, universities, theaters and cinemas were closed until 22 March in three of the affected areas (Achaia, Ileia and Zakynthos).
On 7 March, 21 new cases were confirmed in Greece. Thirteen people in Achaia and Ileia, seven in Attica and one in Euboea tested positive, bringing the country total to 66 confirmed cases.
On 8 March, seven new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the country total to 73.
On 9 March, eleven new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the country total to 84. Among those cases was the first one to be reported in Lesbos, raising fears that the virus could spread to the island's tightly packed refugee camps.
On 10 March, five new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the country total to 89.Evangelos Marinakis, the owner of the football clubs Olympiacos in Greece and Nottingham Forest in England, informed the public via social media that he had contracted the virus, and urged all to follow the orders of health professionals. Health Minister Vasilis Kikilias announced the closure of all educational institutions for 14 days.
On 11 March, ten new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the country total to 99. The 66-year-old man hospitalised in Rio is diagnosed with multi organ dysfunction syndrome.
On 12 March, 18 new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the country total to 117. The first two reported cases in Greece, a mother and her child, were released from the hospital, having fully recovered. The 66-year-old patient in Rio died as a result of the virus, which was the first virus-related death in Greece.
On 14 March, 38 new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the country total to 228, while six more were released from hospitals, bringing the recovered total to eight. A 90-year-old man hospitalised in Ptolemaida died. Also, a 67-year-old man hospitalised in Zakynthos died, bringing the country death toll to three. Testing strategy shifted to only elderly, severely ill, and healthcare personnel. It is announced by Dr. S. Tsiodras in EODY Press Release
On 15 March, 103 new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the country total to 331, while two more were released from hospitals, bringing the recovered total to ten. A 53-year-old man died from the virus, during his hospitalisation in AHEPA, bringing the country death toll to four.
On 16 March, 21 new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the country total to 352.
On 17 March, 35 new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the country total to 387, while four were released from hospitals, bringing the recovered total to 14. A man died bringing the country death toll to five.
On 18 March, 31 new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the country total to 418. A total of 6,000 samples had been tested nationally up to this point. A childbirth was recorded, where the mother tested positive for COVID-19 but the child did not.
On 19 March, 46 new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the country total to 464, while five more were released from hospitals, bringing the recovered total to 19. A 70-year-old man who had been hospitalised in Kastoria, died, bringing the country death toll to six.
On 20 March, 31 new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the country total to 495. Four more people died, bringing the country death toll to ten.
On 21 March, 35 new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the country total to 530. Three more people died, bringing the country death toll to 13.
On 22 March, 94 new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the country total to 624. Two more people died, bringing the country death toll to 15.
On 23 March, 71 new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the country total to 695, while ten people were released from hospitals, bringing the recovered total to 29. A 64-year-old man at Rio Hospital in Achaea and an elderly man at Sotiria Hospital in Athens died as a result of the virus, bringing the country death toll to 17. During the night, another childbirth was recorded where the mother tested positive for COVID-19.
On 24 March, 48 new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the country total to 743, while three people were released from hospitals, bringing the recovered total to 32. Three more people died due to the virus, bringing the country death toll to 20. A 40-year-old woman, who had died three days previously, was found to have been positive for the virus making her, by far, the youngest victim of the pandemic in Greece. The new President of Greece, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, declared she was going to address the nation on the evening of the 24th regarding both the COVID-19 pandemic and the 25th of March Independence Day celebrations.
On 25 March, 78 new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the country total to 821, while four people were released from hospitals, bringing the recovered total to 36. Two more deaths from coronavirus were reported, bringing the country death toll to 22.
On 26 March, 71 new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the country total to 892, while six people were released from hospitals, bringing the recovered total to 42. Four more deaths from coronavirus were reported, bringing the country death toll to 26.
On 27 March, 74 new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the country total to 966, while ten people were released from hospitals, bringing the recovered total to 52. Two more deaths from coronavirus were reported, bringing the country death toll to 28.
On 28 March, 95 new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the country total to 1061. Four more deaths from coronavirus were reported, bringing the country death toll to 32.
On 29 March, 95 new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the county total to 1156, while one person was released from Alexandroupoli University hospital, bringing the recovered total to 53. Six more deaths from coronavirus were reported, bringing the country death toll to 38.
On 30 March, 56 new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the county total to 1212. Five more deaths from coronavirus were reported, bringing the country death toll to 43.
On 31 March, 102 new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the country total to 1314. Six more deaths from coronavirus were reported, bringing the country death toll to 49. Twenty of the cases are aboard a passenger ship stationed out of the port of Piraeus. It carried 382 persons, including 36 Greeks, 150 Turks, 83 Indonesians and others. At least some of the persons were Turkish workers travelling to Spain but the ship was turned back to Turkey when the cases were identified. It was not accepted in Turkey and since 21st of March is at Piraeus.
On 1 April, 101 new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the country total to 1415. One more death from coronavirus was reported, bringing the country death toll to 50.
On 2 April, 129 new cases were confirmed in Greece, bringing the country total to 1544. 27 new cases were reported in the general population, 23 in the Ritsona refugee and immigrant camp, and 79 new cases on the ship El. Venizelos which is being kept off the port of Piraeus, bringing the total cases on the ship to 119. Three more deaths from coronavirus were reported, bringing the country death toll to 53.
On 9 March, all school trips were banned, all sports games were to be played with no fans attending and all school championships were cancelled, and starting on 10 March, all educational institutions were closed for 14 days.
On 16 March two villages in Western Macedonia, Damaskinia and Dragasia, were quarantined after several cases among their residents were confirmed. Movement in and out of the villages was banned, allowing only medical staff and municipal staff to supply medication and food. On 18 March, Greece announced new coronavirus restrictions pertaining to migrant camps. For thirty days, the movement of camp residents would be restricted to small groups between 7am and 7pm, which could only include one person per family and would be controlled by police on public transport. Specialised medical teams were sent to the camps for the creation of virus isolation areas and compulsory temperature checking. All other visits to the camps whether by individuals or organisations were suspended for at least 14 days. On the same day, Deputy Minister of Civil Protection and Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias announced a ban on public gatherings of 10 or more people and the imposition of a 1,000 euro fine on violators.
On 20 March, Minister of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy Giannis Plakiotakis announced that only permanent residents and supply trucks would be allowed to travel to the Greek islands, with effect from 6am local time on 21 March. Travellers need to provide proof of permanent residence (via a tax certificate) on the island to which they wish to travel. People who are already on the islands and wish to leave are allowed to return to the mainland.
On 22 March, the Greek government announced a ban on all nonessential transport and movement across the country, starting from 6 a.m on 23 March until 6 April. Movement is permitted only for a prescribed set of reasons that include moving to or from the workplace during normal business hours, shopping for food or medicine, visiting a doctor or assisting a person in need of help, exercising individually or in pairs or walking a pet, attending a ceremony (wedding, baptism, funeral etc.), and cases of divorced parents moving to ensure communication with their children. People returning to their permanent places of residence will also be exempt. Citizens leaving their home are required to carry their ID or passport with them, as well as some type of certification explaining the reason for their movement which has to be confirmed by their employer or by themselves. The options include filling in a special form that can be downloaded from the government website forma.gov.gr, sending a free SMS to the number 13033, or explaining their reason in a signed handwritten declaration. The information needed include the name, home address, time of departure from home, and the specific reason for transport that falls under one of the exceptions. Members of the government and parliament as well as all Health, Civil Protection, Law Enforcement and Armed Forces personnel were excluded from the measure. The Hellenic Police, the Municipal Police, the Hellenic Coast Guard and the National Transparency Authority are required to enforce the restrictions and issue fines of 150 euros for each offense. On the same day, it was also announced that daytime public transport services will be limited, although ensuring sufficient service during business hours. Journeys by car are only permitted for the specific exemptions, and the driver may only have one passenger in the vehicle.
On 31 March, Deputy Minister for Civil Protection and Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias announced additional restrictive measures for a duration of 14 days in the municipalities of Kastoria, Orestida and Nestorio of Kastoria Regional Unit as well as those of Xanthi and Myki of Xanthi Regional Unit. A night curfew was imposed from 8:00 p.m. until 8:00 a.m. the following morning and some options of the lockdown movement permits were suspended. Only close relatives can attend a funeral and pet owners are allowed to walk their pet for up to 15 minutes and near their house only.
Travel restrictions abroad
On 9 March, the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority announced the temporary suspension of all flights to and from northern Italy, affecting all Greek airports and all airlines. On 14 March the suspension was extended to all passenger flights to and from Italy, excluding cargo and sanitary ones.
On 16 March Greece closed its borders with Albania and North Macedonia, deciding to suspend all road, sea and air links with these countries, while only permitting the transportation of goods and the entry of Greek nationals and residents. The suspension of ferry services to and from Italy, air links to Spain, as well as the prohibition of all cruise ships and sailboats docking in Greek ports was also decided. The same day it was announced that a 14-day home restriction will be mandatory for those who enter the country.
On 18 March, Greece and the other EU member states decided to close their external borders to all non-EU nationals. In Greece, the entry of citizens of countries from outside the European Union is only permitted for a condition that relates exclusively to an emergency or family matter. All private pleasure boats from abroad were also banned from entering the country. On 19 March, Turkey closed the land border crossings with Greece at Karaağaç and Ipsala.
From 23 March, Greece suspended all passenger flights from the UK as well as all sea, rail and road connections with Turkey, with an exception for Greek citizens and those who have residence permits or whose main residence is in Greece, as well as trucks and ships that transport goods.
On 18 March, in a joint news conference, Finance MinisterChristos Staikouras, Labour Minister Yannis Vroutsis, and Development & Investments Minister Adonis Georgiadis announced a package of measures to support the economy, businesses and employees. The measures include the suspension, for four months, of tax and social security obligations of corporations that were ordered to close by the state decree, with the sole condition that they do not dismiss any workers. This measure covers about 220,000 businesses and 600,000 employees. The measures also include an €800 stipend as well as a four-month suspension of payment of March taxes on employees of businesses the activity of which was suspended and on freelance professionals who work in sectors affected by the pandemic. The reduction of VAT tax from 24% to 6% on pharmaceutical products such as gloves, masks and antiseptics was also announced. Moreover, the Finance Minister announced the inclusion of Greece in an emergency assets purchases’ program worth 750 billion euros launched by the European Central Bank, and also stated the 3.5% primary surplus target for Greece is no longer in effect, according to a Eurogroup decision.
On 19 March, Prime MinisterKyriakos Mitsotakis, in a nationally televised address, announced the revision of the State Budget to allocate more than 10 billion euros in support of the economy. The suspension of tax and social security obligations of corporations and the number of beneficiaries of the €800 stipend was extended to include all businesses harmed by the pandemic, all freelancers and self-employed workers and the majority of private sector workers. The state will also cover the cost of beneficiaries’ insurance, pension, and health payments. The PM also stated that the Easter bonus would be paid in full to all employees and announced a special bonus for health and civil protection workers.
Suspension of businesses and workplaces
On 12 March, a two-week closure of all theatres, courthouses, cinemas, gyms, playgrounds and clubs was announced.
On 13 March, the nationwide closure of all shopping centres, cafes, restaurants, bars, museums and archaeological sites and food outlets, excluding supermarkets, pharmacies and food outlets that offer take-away and delivery only, was announced. On 14 March, all organised beaches and ski resorts were closed.
On 19 March, the government announced the closure of all hotels across the country, from midnight on March 22 and until the end of April. Only hotels that accommodate personnel that guard the border will continue to operate, as well as three hotels in Athens and Thessaloniki and one hotel per regional unit will remain open. Moreover, all Greek citizens returning from abroad will be subjected to mandatory surveillance and isolation for at least 14 days. On 22 March, all parks, recreation areas and marinas were also closed.
Closure of educational institutions
Starting on 28 February, with four confirmed cases in the country, the precautionary local closure of schools was decided when there was concern that members of these school communities may have come into contact with a coronavirus carrier. On the same day, all educational trips abroad programmed by Greek schools were suspended and various municipalities around the country began disinfecting schools locally. On 4 March, the closure of all public and private educational institutions of all levels in Ilia, Achaea and Zakynthos was decided and from 8 March all educational trips within the country were suspended.
On 10 March, the operation of all schools, universities, daycare centres and all other educational establishments was suspended nationwide for fourteen days. A special purpose leave of 15 days was introduced for working parents. Ten days later, on 20 March, the closure period was extended such that all educational institutions would remain closed until 10 April.
Suspension of religious practices
On 9 March 2020, the Standing Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, the country′s established Eastern Orthodox Church, discussed the coronavirus epidemic and issued an encyclical that was sent to the dioceses of the Church of Greece. Having stated that the Holy Communion could by no means be a way of transmission of diseases, the Standing Synod decided to continue offering and receiving the Holy Communion. The Synod′s decision created controversy. The Synod's stance prompted criticism from the opposition Syriza party, with former prime ministerAlexis Tsipras criticising the hierarchy, as did former health minister Pavlos Polakis. Some high-profile Greek medical doctors publicly supported the continuation of practicing Holy Communion, drawing criticism from the Greek Association of Hospital Doctors. (Greek: Ομοσπονδία Ενώσεων Νοσοκομειακών Γιατρών Ελλάδος (OENGE)).
On 11 March, the prime minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis, in a nationally televised address, told the public to follow the instructions of doctors and experts, and the Church of Greece to cooperate in enforcing the public health regulations. Two days later, the Archbishop of Athens and all GreeceIeronymos stated that the Church agreed with and would implement the public health precautionary measures taken by the national authorities.
On 16 March, after having been briefed by infectious disease spokesman Sotiris Tsiodras, the Church′s Standing Synod decided to suspend all public services except Divine Liturgies on Sundays, which were to be held as usual between 7 and 8 o’clock in the morning; weddings and baptisms were suspended, funerals were to be held with only the immediate family present; churches were to remain open for private prayer. Following the Synod′s decision, the Greek prime minister announced the government's decision to suspend services in all areas of religious worship of any religion or dogma from 16–30 March, effectively suspending Sunday Divine Liturgies for that period too.
On 1 April, the Standing Synod of the Church of Greece issued a statement that urged the faithful to abide by the government′s sanitary regulations and to refrain from attending services in churches; it also re-affirmed its stance on the Holy Communion set out in the statement of 9 March 2020 and expressed hope that solemn public celebration of Easter (Pascha), which would properly be on 19 April, could be performed on the night of 26 May, the eve of the Leave-Taking (Apodosis) of Pascha.
Refugees and migrants
On February 27, prime minister Mitsotakis announced that illegal entry into Greece would no longer tolerated; as this would be a threat to public health. According to various estimates about 150,600 displaced persons are located in Greece. In the existing camps, doctors, NGOs and refugees considered that measures against the spread of the coronavirus are lacking as people live in overcrowded spaces with little access to proper health services. On March 24, 21 international human rights organizations active in Greece including Amnesty International, the Human Rights Watch and ActionAid published an open call to the Greek government to take immediate measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the Reception and Identification Centres, where refugees live. The conditions of the centres were criticised as deplorable and dangerous to both the refugees and public health.Médecins Sans Frontières which has a clinic near the Moria camp declared that the numbers in the camps had reached levels such that they could not handle an outbreak of infection within the camp. The government further announced that movement of refugees outside the camps would be restricted as facilities are prepared for confirmed cases, and that it would only allow small goups of refugees and migrants to temporarily exit the camps to obtain basic supplies.
On March 28, the Turkish interior minister announced that 5,800 refugees and migrants that had unsuccessfully attempted to cross the Greek-Turkish border had been relocated to Turkish cities due to the coronavirus pandemic. He also announced that as soon as the pandemic subsided these people would be returned to the border.
On March 31, it was reported that an African couple were infected in the Ritsona refugee camp in Central Greece, the wife having given birth.
CoVID-GEO - geographical analysis and mapping of Coronavirus COVID-19 related world data through a web-based platform developed by the GeoCHOROS Geospatial Analysis and Research Group at the National Technical University of Athens, Greece