ATHENS -- The situation in Greece concerning the pandemic is a source of worry and concern, Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said on Thursday in statements on SKAI television.
"What we are experiencing today is the situation prevailing in the country 15 days ago. Given that mobility increased over the holidays, with the images that we have seen and the epidemiological data appearing each day, the situation worries and concerns us," Kikilias said.
He underlined that, as always, the committee of expert epidemiologists will have the final say: "I never pre-empt them and these people do their job very seriously and to a very high standard."
The minister said that the committee's recommendation the previous week, based on the epidemiological data, is that kindergartens and primary schools will open initially on Monday and that any change to this plan will again be driven by the data, which is always assessed ad hoc and depending on the situation that prevails in the country.
"Obviously, we will do whatever is required to protect public health," he added, while noting that a "titanic and successful effort" has been underway throughout the previous months, with Greece surpassing many other countries in its handling of the pandemic.
Kikilias said the committee meeting on Thursday will also discuss a possible return of click-away shopping, while noting that Greece was at the same time carefully watching the situation globally and pointed to the return to tough lockdowns in a number of countries with traditionally strong health systems. Acknowledging that the pandemic was extremely difficult, he urged people to draw strength and courage from the existence of the vaccines "which are the means by which we will return to - an initially partial - normality."
The minister said the government was following a "very serious, scientifically sound and safe vaccination plan," with the number of vaccinations increased to 5,000 per day since January 4: "On January 20, we will have vaccinated 100,000 of our fellow citizens, healthcare and other personnel of the national health system that works in hospitals and private clinics throughout the country." Vaccination had also begun in other facilities, such as retirement and care homes, while vaccination of the very elderly aged over 85 is to begin on January 20.
"Our planning is being carried out step by step and carefully," he said, noting that some countries had so far given zero vaccines, while there was also a danger of administering many times the number of first doses and then not having enough to administer the second dose.
"We will follow our planning in a very difficult, immense healthcare endeavour that hides many pitfalls. We are proceeding with a steady pace, without delays or haste that leads to mistakes, without too many words and with a sense that there will be difficulties and problems that we will correct. We have a control mechanism, we have a very strong team," he said.
He welcomed the fact that the vaccination effort had the support of all the political parties, which he thanked "for this courageous patriotic stance" and called for step-by-step progress "so that we complete this process in the coming months and get our lives back."