ATHENS – In another sign that not being vaccinated against COVID-19 could be a stigma or Scarlet Letter, Greece's New Democracy government is considering further easing of health restrictions for people who are inoculated.
Vaccines could become mandatory in September if Greece doesn't hit the benchmark of 70 percent of the population of 10.7 million – or some 7.49 million fully protected, needed to achieve herd immunity and push back the pandemic.
But Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he won't make them a requirement for health care workers, a surprising number of whom have refused to take the shots even though they are on the front line and see the Coronavirus' effects.
Instead, the government is reportedly thinking about offering them a bonus to get the vaccines even as he urges others, especially the elderly who are the most susceptible to be inoculated.
Vaccinations, or negative COVID-19 tests will be required for people to travel between regions in Greece although it hasn't been said if that will also be a condition of working or going to movie theaters, museums, open-air concerts or other gatherings.
The idea of giving benefits to the vaccinated is on the table for the government, said Kathimerini, with Mitsotakis wanting to pull Greece away from the health crisis and get the battered economy going again and restore near-normal life.
Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis said people who've gotten both of two shots of the versions from Pfizer-BioNTech, Astra Zeneca or Moderna, and the single-shot Johnson & Johnson can go to gyms beginning May 17 unless infections spike.
Vaccinated people in Greece are currently not required to self-isolate if they have come into contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 although it's not been said how that is being tracked.
Manolis Dermitzakis, Professor of Genetics at the University of Geneva told the paper that the vaccinated should not be given carte blanche, however, until the number of cases, deaths and people in Intensive Care Units (ICU's) subsides.
“If the daily number (of cases) comes down to 20-30, then vaccinated persons could end the use of face masks, also in indoor public spaces,” he said, although there were 1,428 on May 9 as well as 51 deaths and 737 in ICU's.
Athanasios Skoutelis, an infectious disease doctor and a member of the expert committee advising the Greek government, told the paper that more freedoms won't be coming before a “wall of immunity” against the virus has been built.
The government has set as its goal 4.5 million fully vaccinated individuals by the end of June, before the peak of the tourist season but that depends on deliveries with the campaign called Eleftheria (Freedom) still far behind schedule.