But for days, leaders of the Greek Orthodox resisted calls to suspend services. So the government was forced to take action, despite the risks of challenging a powerful institution that is deeply tied to the nation’s sense of itself.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said there was no choice. “The protection of public health requires clear decisions,” he wrote on Twitter.
Four deaths have been attributed to coronavirus in Greece with 352 infections on Monday, with cases centered in Athens.
Beyond the capital, there have been growing concerns over a possible coronavirus outbreak at camps on the five Aegean Islands that host some 50,000 migrants in intensely overcrowded conditions.
A 6-year-old girl died on Monday when a fire broke out at the notoriously cramped Moria camp on Lesbos.
Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, called for the evacuation of those living in the camps where whole families are packed tightly into confined quarters.
The international medical humanitarian organization warned that lack of adequate sanitation and limited medical care made the risk of the virus spreading extremely high.
Reporting was contributed by Michael Cooper, Katie Rogers, Karen Zraick, Steven Lee Myers, Alan Rappeport, Emily Cochrane, Melissa Eddy, Raphael Minder, Aurelien Breeden, Marc Santora, Megan Specia, Jonathan Martin, Richard C. Paddock, Maya Salam, Neil Vigdor, Nick Corasaniti, Stephanie Saul, Tiffany May, Patricia Cohen, Jeffrey Gettleman, Suhasini Raj, Karan Deep Singh, Kai Schultz, Niki Kitsantonis and Jim Tankersley.