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No Vaccinations Needed, But Tests for Greece's Tourism Workers

Αssociated Press

A medical staff conducts a test for the new coronavirus on the passengers who arrived from Doha, Qatar to the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport in Athens, Monday, June 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

With COVID-19 spreading on islands that were supposed to be oases of safety, tourism workers – who aren't required to be vaccinated – will have to undergo regular tests instead.

There's no word why they aren't being forced to be inoculated as are health car workers, especially with the rising Delta Variant and the threat of tourism being undercut and slowing an economic recovery.

The testing requirement had only been for a number of popular islands where the New Democracy government didn't meet its own pledge to vaccinate 100 percent of the population, but the mandate now applies to other islands, said the  Reuters news agency.

The government lifted most of the remaining health restrictions of an already lenient and ignored lockdown in a bid to convince foreign visitors that Greece and its islands were safe but that hasn't turned out to be the case.

The government had ordered testing twice a week for unvaccinated workers in restaurants and tourism companies on some of the country’s main holiday islands in an effort to save its summer season, the report said.

The same rule will now apply to workers in these sectors across Greece, Deputy Citizen’s Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said. “Our aim is that our country continues to send the message that it has been and will remain a safe tourist destination,” without explaining why vaccinations haven't been ordered then.

The government briefly put an overnight curfew and banned music on the wild party island of Mykonos where the Coronavirus was spreading as people were gathering in masses in violation of safe social distance rules, not wearing masks.

But under pressure from businesses, including restaurants, bars and taverns that were shut down in 2020, that will last only until July 26 even if the virus is still spreading, the economy trumping public safety.

Major opposition SYRIZA leader and former premier Alexis Tsipras, who both supports and opposes vaccinations and wants the unvaccinated to have the same privileges as those who are inoculated, opposed the restrictions on Mykonos aimed at saving lives.

He said making it tough for tourists sent “a very bad signal” for Greece as a tourist attraction even if the virus is spreading. Besides health care workers, the government said teachers must be vaccinated and public employees who refuse will be suspended and put on unpaid leave as long as the pandemic lasts.

With the Coronavirus spreading again on islands – where tourism workers don't have to be vaccinated – Greece's Coast Guard prohibited more than 4,500 tourists and others from getting on ferries to reach them because they didn't have the proper documents.

All those traveling to the islands must have proof of being fully vaccinated, a negative PCR test or can show that they have recovered from COVID-19 in order to board and return, although that has been overlooked in some cases.

Shipping Minister Yiannis Plakiotakis had the Coast Guard brought in on July 13 because port officials weren't always checking for the documents, Kathimerini also said earlier.

“The checks by Coast Guard officials are strict and they are executed with speed and efficiency,” Plakiotakis told journalists during a visit to the Port of Piraeus, adding that the number of those barred proved it.