ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou laid a wreath at the empty Athens Polytechnic University on Tuesday to honour the dozens killed during a bloody 1973 student uprising against the then military junta.
On a day like this in any other year, the campus in central Athens would be teeming with people queuing to pay homage to those killed, a defining moment in modern Greek history. But the coronavirus pandemic changed things.
Last week, the conservative government banned rallies and the annual march to commemorate the revolt to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Its decision was slammed by leftist and communist opposition parties as “authoritarian”.
“The decision not to have mass events and a march was taken only to protect public health,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Monday, adding that Greece did not hold an annual military parade on Oct. 28, a national holiday, either.
Greece registered 2,198 cases and 58 deaths on Monday, its second highest daily death toll so far.
Greece fared better than other European countries in the first wave of the pandemic due to an early lockdown. But a surge in cases since early October has forced authorities to impose a second, nationwide lockdown which expires at the end of November.
Last week authorities tightened the curbs as the number of infections continued to rise alarmingly.
The government imposed a night curfew, shut primary schools and banned the 1973 anniversary march, which draws thousands of Greeks annually and becomes a focal point for protests against government policy.
More than 5,000 police were deployed in central Athens on Tuesday. Public gatherings of more than four are banned until Nov. 18, according to police, and violators face fines of up to 5,000 euros ($5,928).
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