By George Georgiopoulos and Angeliki Koutantou
ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece will loosen some lockdown restrictions on Monday, letting retail shops and hair salons reopen for the first time in more than two months after signs that pressure on the public health system from COVID-19 is easing, officials said on Friday.
Greece has already taken its first steps at loosening a second lockdown imposed in November, reopening primary schools and kindergartens this week.
Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis said that from Monday shops could re-open, although customers must wear masks and no more than four shoppers would be allowed per 100 square metres of floor space.
"We will not risk the health of the Greek people. If we see trends that the pandemic is coming back we will take today's measures back and do it fast," he said.
Vana Papaevangelou, a member of the committee of experts advising the government, told a briefing that the number of coronavirus infections had steadied in the last three weeks, and the number of people hospitalised had fallen. The occupancy rate in intensive care units was now down to 55%.
"Perhaps we can start smiling behind our masks," she said. Nevertheless, she added: "It seems that because of weather conditions during the winter, it is difficult to suppress the pandemic further."
Health authorities reported 610 new cases on Friday and 34 related deaths, bringing the total of COVID-19 infections since the first case was detected in February to 147,860 and total deaths to 5,421.
Greece has fared better than many other European countries, despite its struggling health services, badly weakened by years of financial crisis.
(Additional reporting by Lefteris Papadimas; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Peter Graff)