Greece shortens curfew, allows music for outdoor diners in latest COVID relaxation

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ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece will shorten a nighttime curfew and allow music for outdoor dining later this week, authorities said on Wednesday, taking a step further in lifting coronavirus restrictions.

Greece kept its first wave of the COVID-19 disease under control but it was forced to impose a second lockdown in November to deal with a resurgence in cases which overwhelmed a health system damaged by a decade-long financial crisis.

Helped by vaccinations and widespread COVID-19 tests for workers, the country has relaxed some curbs since May, allowing restaurants to serve food in outdoor areas after months of lockdown. But it forbade them to play music for fear of encouraging customers to speak loudly, a potential risk for transmitting the disease.

With cases declining for a third week in a row amid summer-like temperatures, restaurants will be allowed to play music for people dining outdoors from June 12, Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias told a regular health briefing.

A curfew between 12:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. will be also shortened by an hour to start at 1:30 a.m. until it is scrapped in July, as long as epidemiological conditions allow it, he added.

"In the coming weeks, we'll be gradually leaving behind us some measures that have been part of our daily routine for some time now," Hardalias told reporters.

But he cautioned that the pandemic is not over yet and that health protocols should be respected.

Greece has inoculated about 23% of its 11 million population so far. It has reported a total of 412,420 infections and 12,346 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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