ATHENS – After allowing in tourists and relaxing quasi-lockdown measures aimed at slowing the now rising spread of COVID-19, Greece's New Democracy has turned back to toughening them, but allowing people to gather.
The Coast Guard is taking over checking ferry passengers to make sure they have papers proving they are fully vaccinated, have a negative PCR test or have recovered from the Coronavirus after cases were jumping on islands.
After moving to require mandatory vaccinations for health care workers – but not those in tourism – the government is trying to rein in the soaring cases that have gone up 1000 percent in a few weeks.
The new rules that went into effect across the country on July 1 require that open-air leisure and entertainment venues like restaurants, bars, cinemas and theaters having to post a sign showing their COVID-19 safety level.
The measure, likely to be confusing, has several categories indicating whether only fully vaccinated customers will be allowed in – with proof – but allows establishments to have mixed spaces allowing intermingling of vaccinated and unvaccinated people – who are supposed to have tests showing they are safe.
The political compromise came after the major rival SYRIZA said it supports vaccinations but that those who aren't vaccinated should have the same privileges as those who are not even if they risk spreading the virus.
Restaurants, bars and taverns want all the customers they can get after being shut down a half year between the onslaught of the pandemic in March 2020, bleeding losses despite state subsidies.
The new rules were designed to encourage people to get vaccinated but curiously also benefits those who aren't as the campaign has stalled, with only about 45 percent of the country fully vaccinated, far short of the 70 percent needed to beat back the pandemic.
The measures, said Kathimerini, also allow business owners and managers in the food and beverage industries, in tourism-related sectors and in other areas of leisure and entertainment to choose the COVID-free option in exchange for a higher occupancy rate or to serve both categories but provide less seating.
But indoor venues will only be allowed to operate as COVID-free spaces and also enjoy a higher, 85 percent occupancy rate. Bars, cafes and clubs will not be allowed to serve standing guests, only those seated at tables.