ATHENS – Ruling out any more COVID-19 lockdowns in a bid to save the Christmas season for businesses which took huge losses after being closed for months earlier, Greece’s New Democracy government is preparing for what health officials said will be a critical run-up to the holiday.
The pandemic has come back with a vengeance, with cases, hospitalizations, people in public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and deaths jumping to record levels but the approach has been to impose tougher restrictions on the unvaccinated.
Now there’s dread over the Omicron Variant from South Africa, first called the Botswana Variant, said to be even more contagious than the Delta Variant that brought the waves of new cases hitting even the vaccinated, who are being infected by unvaccinated as the efficacy of shots begins to wear off.
Government officials said the coming two weeks heading up to the Christmas celebration will be a key test of whether the country can withstand the crush of expected new cases overflowing public hospitals, said Kathimerini.
While a few dozen private doctors have been conscripted to help after most refused, the government hasn’t moved to take over private clinics or their ICUs in facilities available mostly to the wealthy or heavily insured.
Despite all the harbingers of trouble, the government is said to be sticking to its guns that there won’t be any general closing of non-essential businesses as restaurant and tavern and bar owners are complaining about the unvaccinated being locked out of indoor use.
The newspaper said that emergency measures are only restricted to certain local areas, modeled on those in place in other European countries, including limitations on operating hours of restaurants and entertainment venues and a ban on playing music and standing there, being seated required.
There won’t be any more restrictions on the unvaccinated nor mandatory shots even though anti-vaxxers are continuing to spread the Coronavirus and there have been reports of some of them obtaining fake vaccination certificates.
The government’s persuasion campaign to get people vaccinated stalled for months at around 62 percent of the population of 10.7 million but jumped to some 72 percent after skeptics apparently more frightened of rising cases than vaccines lined up to get the shots.
While there’s anxiety about the surge continuing, some numbers were more encouraging, the report said, including that the seven-day fluctuating average of cases was stable over the last week with about 6,700 cases, while the average number of hospital admissions was 447 patients.
But the pressure is still on the public hospital ICUs that are close to being overwhelmed and the government’s advisory panel of doctors, scientists and epidemiological officials are carefully watching data for signals.