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Changing Course, Greece Imposes COVID-19 Measures Over Omicron

December 23, 2021

ATHENS – After easing restrictions for New Year’s Eve, Greece’s New Democracy has turned back to toughening them to deal with the Omicron Variant of COVID-19 that’s expected to sweep over the country, but without affecting the holidays.

Health Minister Thanos Plevris said that masks that were being shunned by many will be required both outdoors and in, including churches and that a double mask or KN95 mask will be required on public transport or in supermarkets where the unvaccinated are allowed while prohibited from other spots such as restaurants.

All public festivities planned by municipalities for the holidays were canceled to avoid overcrowding although it wasn’t said what conditions would be in place for New Year’s Eve where the government earlier said people would be allowed into indoor spots if they showed a self-test, not requiring a rapid or molecular test.

The new measures also will apply to tourists that the government has been wooing to come during the winter and they now will have to take a paid rapid or molecular PCR test on the second and fourth day after their arrival, said ANA.

Plevris also issued a “strong recommendation” for people to get tested before any gathering with friends and family, saying the measures that will continue until Jan. 2 “are enough to celebrate Christmas and New Years safely.”

On Jan. 3, amid fears that letting people celebrate New Year’s Eve and the holidays even with the new restrictions would see a rise in Coronavirus cases, more restrictions will be imposed, the paper said.

Plevris said those would affect entertainment, sports events, and non-essential activities but that there wouldn’t be any more lockdowns or requirements that people get permission to move about.

Read more: Oikonomou: The New COVID Measures Do Not Foresee Total Lockdown

Mitsotakis earlier said it would relax measures for New Year’s Eve to help the economy and allow people to go into restaurants and taverns and gatherings with only self-tests that couldn’t be verified.

That overrrode recommendations from his advisory panel of doctors and scientists who wanted tougher measures to deal with the unstoppable pandemic being spread by anti-vaxxers.

The mish-mash of proposals has created mixed messages and signals about what rules should be followed and uncertainty about whether the unvaccinated will be prohibited from most public venues.

Admitting he wants to keep a slow economic recovery going and try to hold down the pandemic at the same time as it’s spread across Greece by anti-vaxxers, Mitsotakis said he rejected his panel’s advice earlier about New Year’s Eve.

“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.

That was in reference to his decision to back off required rapid tests even for the vaccinated in favor of self-tests for everyone who wants to get into restaurants and taverns on New Year’s Eve.

But, showing worry over what that would bring later, Plevris earlier said the government wold have on the table and ready to go more restrictions if that leniency for the holidays backfires and explodes the pandemic again. Or now.

“It is a clear position of the government – the expert committee is currently meeting – that after the holidays there will definitely be a framework of restrictive measures,” he said during a debate in Parliament.

“The committee will propose the restrictive measures and the government will make its final decisions so that we can control the pandemic,” he added, not mentioning the advice was already overriden for the holidays.

Different measures keep being proposed instead of mandatory vaccinations as Mitsotakis backed away from his pledge to consider them if the pandemic got worse, focusing attention on an economic recovery, as deaths passed 20,000.

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