Greece has become the latest country to try to halt the spread of the coronavirus by closing schools and universities and cancelling large public gatherings, as the World Health Organization insisted the virus could still be “pushed back” if governments around the world took the necessary action.
On Thursday, Greece followed Iran and Italy’s lead by shuttering educational institutions and cancelling sports events and other public gatherings in three western regions.
Infections from the virus in Greece have reached 31, but a health ministry official said it expected a significant rise in cases in the coming weeks. Twenty-one new Greek cases were detected among travellers who had recently returned from Israel and Egypt.
The national public health organisation said the two-day shutdown included “a suspension of all mass gatherings” at theatres, cinemas, museums and sports events in the Peloponnese regions of Achaia and Elis and the island of Zakynthos.
Ancient Olympia, where the flame for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is scheduled to be lit on 12 March, is situated in Elis. The Greek Olympic committee said it was drastically scaling back accreditations “to those absolutely necessary”, limiting festivities and cancelling all event dinners and galas.
Greece’s precautionary measures came as Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the WHO, said countries should be preparing for sustained community transmission and called for governments to play their part in stopping the spread of the coronavirus within their own borders.
Tedros said: “Our message to all countries is: this is not a one-way street. We can push this virus back. Your actions now will determine the course of the outbreak in your country.”