ATHENS (Reuters) - Greeks celebrated Easter Sunday away from loved ones and their home towns because of a stricter lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus but were still able to enjoy spit-roasted lamb, a traditional part of the festivities.
The Greek authorities had banned large family gatherings and mass church attendance during the Orthodox Easter week, which ends on Sunday. Last week, they had doubled fines for all those across the country who tried to travel by car for Easter without a serious reason.
Greeks stuck to the restrictions and spent the day with their close families and roasted lamb on verandas and balconies for the traditional Easter meal.
“We had ordered and sent lambs to Corfu in order to go and celebrate Easter with relatives, but coronavirus came along and we are stuck here,” said Vassilis Kourtelis, 62, from his porch of his house in Athens while roasting the lamb.
“But we are not going to let it ruin our mood, (we are celebrating) here with the family, as if we were there with our relatives. We send them video calls, they see us as we sing and dance.”
Greece has a relatively low rate of infections, which stood at 2,235 by Saturday, including 110 fatalities.
But as thousands of Greeks travel from Athens to their family homes for the Easter every year, the government was worried people would relax social distancing measures and banned unnecessary movement from Holy Saturday night to Easter Monday midnight, doubling the fines for offenders.
“We have pushed aside the first waves with discipline and solidarity,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in his Easter address. “Staying on the same course, we will soon be starting a gradually transition to a new era”.
Athens has said it would unwind its plan to ease the lockdown which ends April 27 after Easter but cautioned this will be a slow process.
“I believe next Easter we and others will be with our loved ones, with friends, with relatives, with our children, everyone together,” Kourtelis said.
Reporting by Stamos Prousalis, Writing by Angeliki Koutantou. Editing by Jane Merriman