ATHENS – Backing off a requirement that parishioners must present negative COVID tests, after Greek Church officials said they wouldn’t, and couldn’t enforce it, the New Democracy government has been hoping people will obey.
More measures prohibiting the unvaccinated from going into most public gathering places were altered to let them go to church if they showed they weren’t infected but they aren’t being checked in some cases, said Reuters.
The restrictions were added in a futile attempt to slow the pandemic that is getting worse, with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis backing off a pledge to consider mandatory shots if it did, focusing his attention on the economy.
Nov. 28 was the first day that those going to church had to present a negative test but it appeared many were just waved through although that’s more lenient than a bar on the unvaccinated from going to restaurants, cinemas, museums and gyms, even with a negative test.
“(This) to safeguard ourselves, and the people,” Father Christos, a priest at the Ayios Spiridon Church in the city of Piraeus, told the news agency. “It might be a bit difficult, but we will persist. We are obliged to comply with everything,” he said.
Officially, the Church said it supports the measures despite a small but rabid core of anti-vaxxer clerics, but officials said there’s a lack of manpower to check everyone coming in.
Some churchgoers said fewer people than usual turned up for Sunday services because of the requirement that the unvaccinated pay for their tests, a cost that could add up for those with families at 10 euros ($11.28) each.
But out of four churches Reuters visited on Sunday, only one volunteer carried out checks, and that was with parishioners unfamiliar to them.
“I don’t like it, but what can we do? We are complying, but the Church is empty today. Obviously people cannot endure the expense, coming here with their children, how much money will they have to spend?” said a woman called Athina.
Chrysoula Bezentakou said she believed people were afraid. “People don’t want to do rapid tests, or vaccinations,” she said. “I think it’s psychological.”
Greece has recorded a spike in infections this month, with daily cases hitting record highs. By Nov. 27, the country had recorded 920,683 infections, and 17,861 deaths since the start of the outbreak, the report added.