COVID19: Christmas events at malls banned

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The government has approved more COVID-19 measures following the emergence of Omicron and the rising cases, including banning Christmas events at shopping malls.

All Christmas events planned by department stores and malls are banned from Monday, regardless of whether they are held outdoors or indoors.

Working from home will also be reintroduced, the cabinet agreed Thursday.

From 6 December, 20% of employees in the private and public sector will be sent to work from home.

This includes those already working from home who have either tested positive for the coronavirus or declared as a close contact of a known case and people on annual leave.

Furthermore, army reservists will not be called for duty until the end of February.

Festive events held by Municipalities, communities, and places of religious worship will be the responsibility of local authorities and organisers to observe the health protocols.

The Health Ministry has also issued a recommendation to schools to call off all field trips.

The government was prompted to introduce additional measures after the emergence of the new variant and a rise in cases which peaked at 613 on Tuesday.

The latest measures come just days after tighter restrictions came into effect on Monday.

Vaccinations

However, the pickup in vaccinations and booster shots is believed to have taken the bite out of the government’s initial intentions.

“The great response of citizens to the call for vaccination in all districts sends encouraging messages to deal with the pandemic and shield public health.

“This can be seen from the large number of citizens coming to the vaccination centres in recent days,” said Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas.

“In the last 10 days, about 10,000 citizens rushed to receive the first dose of the vaccine, while 70,000 people had a booster shot.

“However, last Friday, the whole planet was put on alert in the light of new data presented after the appearance of the Omicron variant, which alerted health authorities around the world.

“It is our duty as the Ministry of Health and the government to respond to these developments by taking additional measures to protect public health and protect vulnerable groups.”

Commenting on recent attacks on schools and parents’ reactions to a mask mandate for children over six, Hadjipantelas said that during the week of 20-26 November, 26% of positive cases concerned minors.

“That is why the ministry, following the recommendation of experts, took protective measures for the health of our children, but also to ensure the smooth operation of schools with a physical presence.”

Children older than six now need to wear a face mask in school and public areas and present a Safe Pass for extracurricular activities and venues they visit.

A digital Safe Pass document is mandatory for those between 14 and 64.

Adults who have not completed their vaccination regimen must have a 72-hour PCR test or a 48-hour Rapid Antigen test for Safe Pass purposes.

Previously unvaccinated people could have a rapid test every 72 hours.

From 15 December, only people over 12 with at least one vaccine shot will be able to enter indoor and outdoor venues such as stadiums, restaurants, and nightclubs, regardless of whether they have recently been tested.

People needing a booster jab have until 18 December to get one, or their Safe Pass will be invalid.