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Greece Girds for Omicron-Struck Public Worker Staff Shortages

ATHENS – The surging Omicron Variant of COVID-19 that wasn’t controlled by lenient health measures is expected to cut deep into the availability of public workers in Greece and leave understaffing in many offices.

The most vulnerable sectors include already-overwhelmed public hospitals filling again with record numbers of cases, as well as public transportation, civil service offices, schools and universities, and private businesses too.

Disruptions of varying severity are expected due to the large number of infections that will keep many employees quarantined, said Kathimerini, after Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ government didn’t opt for tougher restrictions in a bid to push an economic comeback.

While many public office employees can work from home – if they answer their phones after complaints during previous lockdowns that they didn’t – police and firefighters and public safety workers are either on the job or not. 

Although health care workers must be vaccinated or be suspended, Mitsotakis didn’t extend that mandate to the police force which has a large segment of anti-vaxxers who are required to enforce health measures.

While Omicron is less deadly than the Delta Variant it is far more contagious and transmissible and has infected even the fully vaccinated who have a third booster shot showing it’s almost unstoppable.

If hospital workers are affected it would put further pressure on the public hospitals as the government hasn’t moved to recruit private clinics reserved for those who can afford to go there or have private insurance.

It’s mostly the young who are being struck by Omicron although the elderly are more susceptible to becoming seriously ill and those over 60 must make an appointment for a first vaccine shot by Jan. 16 or face 100-euro ($114) monthly fines, that deducted from benefits for pensioners.

Health officials and the government’s advisory panel of doctors and scientists are set to review post-holiday data to see if going easy on restrictions in December will bring a bigger spike and the young infecting the old, said Kathimerini.

The government now requires those going into supermarkets and public transportation to wear either KN95 masks or double masks although that’s being shunned in some instances.

With at least half of workers supposed to be doing their jobs from home, that could lower the numbers of people on buses, trains, trams and subways while having many public employees do their jobs at home also will.

Aides to Interior Minister Makis Voridis told the paper working from home will mostly apply to civil servants that do not deal directly with the public and said that, “There is a plan indicating, at each agency, how many people can work from home.”

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