ATHENS – Greek police used tear gas Thursday to disperse violently protesting state high school students who have organized scores of school strikes in response to classroom overcrowding during the coronavirus pandemic.
Brief clashes broke out near the parliament in central Athens after students threw several gasoline bombs at police. Two protesters, aged 17 and 20, were arrested on public disturbance charges. No injuries were reported.
Several hundred people, including state school teachers and college students, took part in the protest which was mostly peaceful.
School protest groups say many classrooms at state-run schools are overcrowded. The state high school teachers' union, which endorsed Thursday's protest, wants classes limited to a maximum 15 children and is asking for more teachers and school cleaners to be hired. The government says the average nationwide class size is 17 children.
Authorities have been alarmed by a recent increase in daily coronavirus cases, mostly in the Greek capital. Another 411 confirmed infections — including 272 in the greater Athens region — were announced Thursday and two deaths, raising the overall death toll to 393.
Recent localized outbreaks concerning health officials include a nursing home in central Athens where dozens of elderly residents had to be hospitalized, and at several villages outside Athens where the transmission was linked to a funeral attended by about 200 people.
And additional restrictions were announced for two weeks on the island of Kythnos in the Cyclades, 145 kilometers (90 miles) southeast of Athens, that include compulsory use of facemasks outdoors and in most indoors areas.
Separately, the Migration and Asylum Ministry said the offices of its central asylum application service in Athens would remain shut for disinfection on Friday after a translator working for the service tested positive for COVID-19.
Also Thursday, Greece’s Civil Protection Authority said it would hire 192 people on eight-month contracts to assist in efforts for coronavirus contact tracing and quarantine of positive cases. The authority issued a call for applications for Greek citizens under 40 with a college education to be deployed around Greece.
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