ATHENS – Greeks will be able to gather and enjoy New Year’s Eve in restaurants and taverns without having to show rapid tests proving they aren’t infected with COVID-19 after Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis rejected that advice from his panel of doctors and scientists.
Instead, they will be required to have self tests and produce them with no way of verifying the identity as do rapid and molecular tests although it was unclear whether the unvaccinated will be allowed into venues from which they had been barred.
That would mean the prohibition would be lifted for that night despite warnings from epidemiological experts the festivities could likely be super spreaders that would results in a mass wave of post-holiday infections.
Instead of a rapid test, everyone, vaccinated or not, will have to have a self-test, said Kathimerini. For the vaccinated, there will be no obligation but a “strong recommendation,” they don’t have to abide by.
“It is true that I was advised to introduce mandatory rapid tests for everybody for admission to all leisure and entertainment venues. I rejected the proposal because I thought the measure would be unfair to the vaccinated and ultimately too difficult to implement,” Mitsotakis told his Cabinet.
“So instead of imposing something on everyone, I chose to trust everyone,” he added, said Kathimerini, a tactic that has largely failed for months, with rabid anti-vaxxers unconvinced and protesting health restrictions as well.
Rapid and molecular tests are registered with the state by pharmacists and testing centers and clinics while self-tests are done at home and unregistered with no way of proving whose they are.
The government said it would pay for two self-tests a week, the results good for 48 hours, enough to cover New Year’ Eve if taken but not during a week’s period while out in other public gathering areas.
The newspaper said what also apparently swayed Mitsotakis was the physical impossibility of requiring as many as 2 million rapid tests in the two days before New Year’s Eve, which would have included the vaccinated as well.
He told his ministers, the paper said, he has a two-phase plan to have self-tests before and after gatherings and hope for the best and if that fails and the virus spreads, to bring tougher measures after the holiday he rejected for now.
“We want to spend the holidays in safety, without bringing the economy and society to a standstill, and without having to pay for our holiday activities afterward,” he said, as he had moved his attention toward the economy.
“Everything will depend on the data at the time. Nothing has been decided yet,” he said after what his plans would be after the holidays if the New Year’s Eve leniency blows back.
If so, restrictions in January to pay the cost of going soft would likely include more remote working from home and staggering the opening hours of bars and restaurants which were supposed to keep out the unvaccinated.
He said there’s no way schools wouldn’t open again. “Tests and basic precautions are our defense. And our stance today will determine the decisions taken tomorrow,” Mitsotakis added.
“No suspension of the operation of schools, however. But everything, I stress, will be judged by the data available then. No decision has been made yet,” he said, with worry as well whether the Omicron Variant will overtake the country.
“The Greek state has already distributed 80 million free self-tests, spending 150 million euros ($169.18 milion.) And this care by the state will continue, with even more means, such as the new (anti-COVID-19] drugs, whose use will sprread once they get official approval. So, the message this year, as well, is that safe holidays are the best holidays,” Mitsotakis added.