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A Testing Holiday Season in Greece: COVID-19 Checks for All?

December 21, 2021

ATHENS – Worried about COVID-19 spreading even faster during the holidays – primarily by anti-vaxxers – Greece’s New Democracy government is said to be thinking of some way to have the entire population of 10.7 million people required to be tested.

It wasn’t said how that would even be possible, strategically, so so many opposed to health measures aimed at slowing the spread of the Coronavirus, worries rising over the even more contagious Omicron Variant gaining a foothold.

The government – which hasn’t required vaccinations and is seeing restrictions on the unvaccinated being ignored in some public gathering places – wants to hold down the deadly virus as it pushes for an economic recovery.

Government sources not identified told Kathimerini that the plan is for mandatory rapid tests even for the fully vaccinated who want to get into indoor venues, especially on New Year’s Eve.

The unvaccinated aren’t allowed under the current restrictions but absent the police guarding and checking all entrances there is no real way to make sure that all businesses are adhering to the restrictions.

Health Minister Thanos Plevris, who has no experience in the field, earlier told SKAI TV that, “What we are considering is that at some point we would like to test the entire population (so that) we can have an overall epidemiological picture of the country, the vaccinated and the unvaccinated alike. That’s our concern: when decisions must be made they will be made.”

Government spokesman Yiannis Oikonomou said that “if such a measure (universal screening) needs to be imposed, the cost of the test to enter specific places will be borne by the citizens.”

“We will celebrate both Christmas and New Year’s, there are no thoughts of imposing (lockdown-like) restrictions,” he added after he and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said more measures might be on the table.

“We now have a de-escalation of the 4th wave (of the pandemic), waiting for the arrival of the 5th wave that will be due to Omicron. “We are worried about a possible rapid infection rate,” Plevris said.

After saying there wouldn’t be more controls he then said there would be, for the holiday season, to prevent the national health system and public hospitals from further being overwhelmed.

Citizen Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos told SKAI TV that 10,000 police officers will be patrolling the streets to monitor compliance with social distancing rules that have essentially been ignored for months.

The police, however, aren’t required to be vaccinated although they are supposed to check the public to ensure that health measures, including wearing masks largely being shunned, are also complied with.

Goverment spokesman Yianns Economou said that all measures would be taken to protect everyone at the same time he said that doesn’t include interfering with a push for an economic recovery.

While espousing public safety, he told SKAI TV that there’s no plans for another lockdown and that, “There will not be any fundamental deviation from our central strategy, we want to keep the economy open and observe all the personal and collective protection measures,” at the same time.

“For the time being a full lockdown is not in our thoughts and we will make every effort to avoid it … i the need for horizontal measures arises, which will differ, however, from the approach of a total lockdown, we will announce them in good time without taking anyone by surprise,” he added.

He said that, “More more and greter testing will help over the next period,” and that the government will listen again to advice from its panel of doctors and scientists whose recommendations have sometimes been set aside.

The government is still pinning its hopes on a largely-failed campaign to persuade the skeptical and outright refuseniks to get their shots, with about 62 percent of the population vaccinated, not including third booster shots that haven’t reached all those with two shots yet.

Health officials said at least 70 percent of the population must be protected to slow the pandemic that in March will be two years longer and seems likely to go for at least another year after that accoding to some expert estimates.

 

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