ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece will not be able to lift lockdown restrictions in the wider Athens area on March 1 as previously planned, following a sharp increase in coronavirus infections, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Wednesday.
Athens metropolitan area, where half of Greece's population lives, has been under strict lockdown restrictions that were set to expire on Feb. 28.
Although it has suffered more than 6,000 deaths, Greece has fared better than much of Europe in containing the pandemic and protecting its health service, badly damaged by years of financial crisis.
However, state hospitals have been overwhelmed in recent days with intensive care units operating at about 80% capacity.
On Tuesday, authorities reported 2,147 new cases, around half of them in the Attica region around Athens, and 22 deaths, up from around 1,000-1,500 in previous days.
"There has been a steep rise in infections yesterday, particularly in Athens, which pushes back our plan...for a gradually reopening on March 1," Mitsotakis told a cabinet meeting.
Schools are closed and only essential shops operate in Athens, while night curfews restrict movement.
(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; editing by James Mackenzie)