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Greece steps up distancing checks after party scenes

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece will step up spot checks to ensure the public and businesses stick to social-distancing rules, authorities said on Thursday, saying people were lowering their guard too soon after the COVID-19 lockdown.

Scenes of crowded spaces, like Greece's hugely popular village fairs with hundreds dancing in sync, have rattled authorities, whose early lockdown in March was instrumental in staving off the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic which struck other nations.

Greece started easing the lockdown in early May, but social- distancing rules still apply. "It would be criminal to endanger the health of our loved ones out of sheer frivolity," said Stelios Petsas, the government spokesman.

The country opened its borders in June. Spot tests had identified a small number of people who tested positive at borders, but Petsas said the biggest risk was from within the country, saying people dropping their guard was "unacceptable".

Greece is reporting low numbers of new cases daily. By Wednesday, it had reported a total of 3622 cases, up 33 from the day before, and 193 deaths.

Authorities had already focused intensified checks on a land border with Bulgaria, a route used by thousands of Europeans arriving in Greece by car. Greece had taken note of an increase in cases in some Balkan countries and would continue to monitor the situation, he said.

(Reporting By Michele Kambas)

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