Greece exceeds 1,200 daily COVID-19 infections for first time

People wearing protective face masks walk past a mural by Greek visual artist Hambas, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Athens

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece recorded a single-day record of 1,259 confirmed coronavirus infections on Tuesday, health authorities said, while the education minister tested positive for the virus.

Tuesday's jump followed 715 new cases recorded on Monday. Greece has been reporting a steady increase in cases since early October. There were also 12 COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday.

Night-time curfews from 12:30 a.m. to 5 a.m. were enforced in the capital Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki last weekend.

Sotiris Tsiodras, one of the government's top scientific advisers, appealed anew to the public to enforce social distancing rules.

"We all know what should be done, but we can't get into everyone's conscience," Tsiodras told a news briefing. "It's a matter of personal responsibility. Now is the time for the voice of conscience to speak."

Minister of Education and Religious Affairs Niki Kerameos said she tested positive for the virus on Tuesday, when she and her spouse were checked after he showed symptoms. Kerameos, 40, wrote on Twitter she had no symptoms and would remain in isolation.

A Greek official said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tested negative in a scheduled test on Monday.

Greece kept a lid on a first coronavirus wave by enforcing an early blanket lockdown in March, with measures easing from May.

Although recent data suggests the latest wave is being driven by younger patients, Greece has an ageing population and the elderly bear the brunt of this disease, with 79 the average age of its victims.

Tsiodras had taken a hiatus from nightly TV appearances early in the pandemic, so his appearance at a briefing on Tuesday evening was unusual. He also appealed to the sceptics.

"Unfortunately, our personal freedoms are being curtailed, but a face mask is our only option. I haven't been to a restaurant or a cafe from February," he said.

Tuesday's data put Greece's total tally of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic at 32,752, with 593 deaths.

(Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas; Editing by Nick Macfie and Bill Berkrot)