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Greek police set up checkpoints, turn back Easter travellers

ATHENS, Greece — Greek police set up checkpoints Friday along highways leading out of Athens to enforce a travel ban tightened for Orthodox Easter on May 2.

Easter holidays are often celebrated with relatives outside Athens and other cities, but the government said COVID-19 infection levels remain too high to allow free travel.

Churches were closed last Easter but will be allowed to remain open for this year’s services, with seating restrictions and mandatory use of COVID-19 test kits for priests and church staff. The main Easter service next Saturday will be held three hours earlier, at 9:00 p.m. due to curfew measures, while worshippers are being advised by the government to remain outdoors.

Additional travel restrictions are in effect through May 10, with movement between different administrative regions of the country allowed only for specific work reasons, medical emergencies, funerals of close relatives, and parental visits for divorced and separated fathers of children under 18.

"Cars are being checked and people without the proper documentation (to justify non-essential travel) are being turned back to Athens. Our inspections will take place daily and around the clock," Giorgos Yiaseranis, a police official in charge of highway security in greater Athens, told reporters at a checkpoint next to a toll station west of Athens.

The pandemic has killed nearly 10,000 people in Greece. Most restrictions, including school and store closures, have been in effect since early November when the overall death toll was still below 750.

Services for the country’s vital tourism industry will open on May 15, and many restrictions are being relaxed ahead of that date. Shopping malls will reopen Saturday, while restaurants and cafes will be allowed to serve customers seated outdoors starting May 3. ___

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The Associated Press