Witnesses saw people running away from police and thick plumes of smoke rising in Syntagma Square, outside the parliament building in Athens. Earlier at least three petrol bombs were thrown towards police. Rallies are being planned in almost 40 Greek cities and town to oppose the Government’s plans.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told MPs in Parliament: “The right to hold peaceful gatherings must be protected but it must be done in a way that will not interrupt the activity of an entire city.
“Today’s bill will actually shield the freedom of public expression of citizens.
“It will shield it both from the danger of state arbitrariness and from the threat of usurpation of this right by some opponents of normalcy.
Opposition leader Alexis Tsipras added that the bill is a reactionary institutional move” against “democracy, the constitutionally guaranteed right to demonstrate, to rally, to protest.”
READ MORE: EU implosion: Commission launches challenge against Italy, Greece
He claimed that the Government is forcing this legislation through now is because it fears protests in Autumn when the public will feel the economic bite brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
The protests come as researchers in Greece say they are close to launching a molecular test to detect COVID-19 which could provide a cheaper alternative to imported kits and uninterrupted access to supplies.
Greece currently uses diagnostic kits imported from a variety of suppliers abroad. The potential new test would use nasal swab samples, two researchers said, and could be available “in the coming future”.
Both researchers requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the project.
Mr Mitsotakis told Skai radio: “We won’t be depending on tests from abroad, and I believe we will be in a position to make some significant announcements on research into therapy protocols.”
Greece moved swiftly to contain the virus outbreak by initiating a broad lockdown in March, recording less than 4000 cases, and less than 200 deaths.
Researchers said they had also developed a test with ‘more than 90 percent accuracy’ which can detect COVID-19 antibodies, a sign that someone had contracted the virus.
Research was also underway into how antibodies could be used in a potential cure, they said.