ATHENS, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- The Greek government on Thursday extended the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown until Dec. 14 to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The second lockdown in Greece started on Nov. 7 and was initially scheduled to be lifted on Nov. 30. However, as it has not yet yielded the desired results, the government extended it to Dec. 7 first and now for an extra week.
"The extension of the current general restrictions was deemed necessary as the epidemiological load continues to be high," government spokesperson Stelios Petsas told a regular press briefing.
On Thursday, the Hellenic National Public Health Organization (EODY) announced 1,882 new cases within 24 hours. A few days ago, the daily cases exceeded the 3,000 mark.
The total number of confirmed infections now stands at 111,537.
A further 100 deaths have been counted since Wednesday, bringing the total number of fatalities to 2,706, according to EODY. Meanwhile, 622 patients are intubated, which is a new record high for the country.
The number of new cases reported per day is stabilizing or declining, albeit at a slower rate than expected. Many hospitals, in particular in northern Greece, are under pressure, hence the decision to further delay the restart of the economy, Petsas explained.
Only stores selling seasonal decorations, such as Christmas trees and ornaments, will be allowed to open on Dec. 7, he noted.
"The protection of public health and human life remains our priority," he said. "Despite the discontent the pandemic causes to all of us, the hope that science brings to the whole world will be visible this Christmas."
Greece will receive the first shipment of vaccines at the end of this month or the beginning of January, at the same time as other European Union (EU) countries and in proportion to its population, he said.
The authorities are already setting up 1,018 vaccination centers throughout Greece. The goal is to vaccinate some two million Greeks per month, starting with health sector professionals and followed by people over 65 years and those belonging to vulnerable groups with chronic illnesses, he said.
The vaccines will be administered on a voluntary basis and free of charge in Greece and there will be a campaign to convince those who have doubts regarding the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines, Petsas said.
According to a survey carried out by Prorata polling firm and published on Wednesday, 32 percent of the respondents said that they do not intend to get vaccinated.