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COVID Vaccines With Benefits in Greece: Shots Bring More Freedom

ATHENS – People in Greece who've been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will have freedoms not allowed those not inoculated, including in entertainment such as movies, concerts and other areas.

That was announced by the New Democracy government that's struggling to convince doubters that the vaccines are safe and effective, including a small hard-core group of anti-vaxxers who refuse to be protected.

Only about 33 percent of people in Greece have been fully vaccinated with two shots of most versions or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson but at least 70 percent is needed to further beat back the pandemic.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who said he can't make resisting health workers take the shots, is mulling whether to make it mandatory by the autumn when everyone will have had a chance to get the jab.

The idea of giving extra benefits to the fully vaccinated came with the recommendation of Greece’s Bioethics Committee and the committee of health experts advising the government on Coronavirus policy, said Kathimerini.

Minister of State Giorgos Gerapetritis said the scheme has a mix of measures that puts the squeeze on businesses to choose whether they will cater only to immunized patrons, who will have greater liberties, or also to unvaccinated patrons, who will be subject to restrictions.

That means the fully vaccinated – which means two weeks after a second shot of most versions – or have recovered from COVID-19 within the last six months, he said, will have access to indoor venues like cinemas, movie theaters and stadiums in greater numbers and without masks in some cases.

More specifically. the government announced that entertainment venues will be open on a two-tier system that will determine how full they can be.

Venue operators can choose whether to open only to those who are fully vaccinated or who have recently recovered from COVID-19, or whether to also allow in the unvaccinated if they have proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test.

Venues open only to the vaccinated will be able to allow in more people and in some cases to let in people without masks.

As of July 15, indoor restaurants, cafes, theaters and cinemas will be able to operate at 85% capacity if they are open only to the vaccinated and recently recovered, but at 50% capacity if they also allow in non-vaccinated people, who must produce proof of a negative coronavirus test. Masks will remain mandatory in indoor theaters and cinemas for all.

Clubs and music venues will be allowed to operate at 60% capacity if they are exclusively open to the vaccinated and recently recovered, but only at 25% capacity if they also allow in the non-vaccinated.

Government officials have said they are examining legal options to make vaccination compulsory for some employment categories, including nursing home staff.

Greece is currently carrying out about 100,000 vaccinations daily, and everyone aged 18 and over can book an appointment for a vaccine if they want one. But reluctance among certain age groups has been a major concern for health officials as infections of the highly contagious delta variant continue to rise across Europe.

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