ATHENS – As Greece hit the 5 million milestone for COVID-19 vaccinations – but only 1.8 million for two required doses – the New Democracy government is stepping up a campaign to inoculate the willing.
But the government won't so far make the shots mandatory although health officials said at least 7.49 million people, or 70 percent of the country's population of 10.7 million, must be fully protected to beat back the pandemic.
There remains a small but strong anti-vaxxer core in Greece that includes health care workers on the front line of fighting the health crisis and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he can't make them be vaccinated.
Technically speaking, he can, as the law allows the Health Minister to force mandatory vaccinations in a pandemic but the Premier does not want to antagonize resisters with Greece needing every doctor and nurse it can get.
There were reports earlier that he might move toward forced shots in September if the benchmark needed to achieve herd immunity is falling short, the government hoping persuasion will work.
That has seen tangible results in more people lining up for shots and another campaign urging the doubters to get in line is in the works with the government wanting to show tourists that Greece is safe for them.
Greece opened to foreign travelers on May 15, but allowing only those who have proof of vaccination, a negative PCR test or a certificate showing they had recovered from the Coronavirus.
Restaurants that only recently were allowed to offer outdoor seating as a lenient lockdown was pulled further back were due to possibly open indoor as well on June 1 although there are signs some have violated health measures to do so already.
The government frantically wants revenues after putting billions of euros into subsidies for workers laid off and their businesses during two lockdowns over the past 15 months and restaurateurs are demanding more seating, said Kathimerini.
Health Ministry General Secretary for Primary Healthcare Marios Themistokleous said the vaccine platform for the 35-39 age group will open in full on May 26, five days after it opened for 40-44 year-olds, so that by the Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis said the opening of indoor dining areas will be permitted “when 50 percent of the population has been vaccinated with at least one dose,” which means another 2.1 million people.
With some 100,000 vaccinations a day being given that means Greece could hit the 50 percent mark of one shot near the end of June, nearly a month after restaurants were said they could open indoors.
With signs that near-normal life has begun, with many people even shunning the last barrier of masks and ignoring social distancing, the government is said to be ready to lift more restrictions to allow 100 people at weddings and baptisms.