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Politics

Greece Relies on New Restrictions to Slow Resurging Pandemic

November 23, 2021

ATHENS – Instead of mandatory shots, Greece’s New Democracy government is counting on tighter restrictions on the unvaccinated and pushing vaccinations to try to slow a rise in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has walked back his promise to consider making shots required – Austria will make vaccinations mandatory early in 2022 – and has turned his attention toward trying to restore the economy.

Unable to convince rabid anti-vaxxers to be inoculated with a persuasion campaign that largely failed, the government is making it tougher for them to move around, setting up prohibitions for entering most public places.

A government order went into effect through Dec. 6, mandating masks at all workplaces, staggering opening hours in the public and private sector, and allowing access for adults to indoor recreation and entertainment areas only to those carrying a certificate of vaccination or recent recovery.

The restricted spaces include indoor areas at bars, restaurants, movie theaters and museums but not pharmacies or the major public gathering spots in supermarkets where the unvaccinated will be allowed to mix with others.

Additional capacity limits and entry restrictions were also imposed at courts and places of worship but the Greek Church said it doesn’t have the capacity to enforce them.

The government said about 72 percent of the population is vaccinated but for many the efficacy of shots taken six months or more earlier is wearing off and they are being encouraged to get booster shots.

Meanwhile, the anti-vaxxers are continuing to spread the Coronavirus and had been virtually unchecked until the new restrictions against them, the measures taken as the pandemic got worse.

The measures were imposed after ICU occupancy for COVID-19 treatment exceeded 90 percent in public hospitals although private clinic units aren’t being requisitioned although private doctors have been conscripted.

The government has ruled out a return to a general lockdown but Health Minister Thanos Plevris said the current restrictions would be re-assessed in two weeks as the government goes back and forth about what to do.

“It is our unvaccinated fellow citizens who are getting very sick, are being admitted to ICU wards, and are dying,” he told private Antenna television.

“The vaccinated do not require the same level of protection,” he said, although data showed 40 percent of new cases were the vaccinated as the effectiveness of shots wears off just as the dangerous winter season approaches.

A senior prosecutor, meanwhile, has filed criminal and misdemeanor charges against 48 people in central Greece allegedly involved in an operation selling vaccination certificates to people who have not received the shot but who want access to most indoor spots.

It was the first time the serious criminal charges of participation in a criminal organization and money laundering were imposed in a vaccination fraud case in Greece although there had been cases earlier in which some health workers were accused of dealing in fake vaccination documents.

 

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

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