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Mitsotakis Won't Make Greek Health Workers Take COVID-19 Vaccine

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PM Mitsotakis interview on Star TV. (Photo by Eurokinissi/ Dimitris Papamitsos)

ATHENS - As he's urging all Greeks to be vaccinated - it's not mandatory - to slow the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime  Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he won't yet force health workers to be inoculated despite the risk of being front line workers.

While that is showing a mixed message in the battle against the Coronavirus, he said he won’t force doctors, nurses, hospitals and medical staff to take the vaccine against their will because it would cause too much tension, said Kathimerini.

If the pandemic worsens, however, he said he might rethink it but not until September with no explanation why he would wait that long apart from hoping the pandemic will lessen - because of vaccinations.

While many health professionals who see the deadly effects of COVID-19 still won’t the shot - it wasn’t said whether over fear or doubting its efficacy - other people are anxious to be inoculated and dozens of politicians jumped the line to be first.

Speaking the the TV channel Star, he said that, “I think, when there is not so much pressure on the health system… at present, I do not want to create tension inside hospitals, but I must say that, from September, we must revisit the issue from a different perspective,” not fully answering the question.

He apparently is worried that requiring vaccinations will make some health professionals not work in hospitals but didn’t explain how that would help if they become ill from COVID-19 and can’t work anyway.

A bigger percentage of health workers than the general population don’t want to be vaccinated, the paper said, the government’s message the vaccines are safe and work being undercut but there were reports that some who initially refused now want it.

Mitsotakis appealed also to older Greek citizens to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, and rejected rumors he would lead the country to snap elections.

During his interview, the PM said, "I call on the aged, I plead with them: Get vaccinated the soonest possible, vaccines are a protection, there are vaccines and appointments available, it is a fundamental act of self-protection."

At some point, from September on, the government will review the idea of making vaccination of medical staff obligatory, he revealed. "I do not want to create pockets of confrontation, we will see about it as of September," he said.

The premier declined to name a date for the full reopening of food businesses (which may now only provide take-away or delivery services), and said his assessment this would happen after Greek Orthodox Easter (May 2) depends on the opinion of the Health Ministry's committee of experts on the coronavirus.

Further commenting on disagreements about restriction measures among ministers and committee members, and how that is conveyed publicly, Mitsotakis said, "I would have preferred our message to be clearer the past two months. In terms of clashing opinions of government officials, that is my responsibility, but in terms of different views by scientists, that is not my job. Differing opinions create the sense of pluralism, but there is no absolute truth. I believe all scientists should defend the decisions of the committee, not express their personal opinions."

As for snap elections in September, Mitsotakis firmly rejected the idea, saying that his government would complete its term. "At the end of our four-year term, I want citizens to judge for themselves whether they prefer the four years of Mitsotakis or the previous one, of (SYRIZA leader Alexis) Tsipras," he said.

Greek-Turkish relations key to EU-Turkish relations now

The Greek government succeeded in establishin Greek-Turkish relations as a factor of EU-Turkish relations, Mitsotakis said.

In other words, Turkey can take advantage of EU-Turkish relations as long as it does not produce tension with Greece and Cyprus, Mitsotakis explained. He added his opinion that the neighboring country will not be tempted to 'export' its domestic crisis to the Aegean and the Mediterranean, and said he expects it to become fully compliant with the EU-Turkey Joint Statement and allow returns of migrants from the Greek islands.

Speaking on his recent visit to Libya, Mitsotakis said it is obvious the memorandum signed between the then Tripoli government and Ankara on maritime zone delimitation is illegal, legally ineffectual, and harms Greek national interests. He saw however as a positive step the willingness of Libya's current government to start direct negotiations with Greece on maritime zone delimitation between the two countries.

Watch the full interview in Greek: