ATHENS – Tighter restrictions put on the unvaccinated in Greece before they can enter public gathering spots such as restaurants and retail stories has upset the owners of businesses who are complaining they will be losing customers during the rising COVID-19 pandemic.
The head of the union representing restaurateurs and other related businesses reportedly will meet on Nov. 8 with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to register their complaint and ask for the measures to be reconsidered as they require the unvaccinated to show a negative test before being allowed in.’
“The government is using our sector as leverage to pressure the unvaccinated, but it is not supporting businesses so they can survive,” POEET chief Giorgos Kavvathas told Athens 98.4 radio, essentially asking that anti-vaxxers have the same privileges as those who are fully inoculated.
Owners of some catering and leisure venues, said Kathimerini, shut down eateries, cafes and bars in Greece’s third-largest city Patra, on the west coast, in protest without indicating how that would help them.
Hairdressers also shut for a day to show their displeasure at the requirement that exempts supermarkets, pharmacies and churches even though they are major gathering spots for the public.
The rules went into effect on Nov. 6 and saw long lines of people queuing outside stories to go inside, the New Democracy government said it had to make the move to quell the pandemic instead of going to general or local lockdowns.
Adding to delays to get into places, the vaccinated must also show their certificates, a process which caused store jams in the Greek capital’s busiest shopping area of Ermou Street.
“I don’t like it,” said Soula Tsaousi as she waited in line outside a clothes shop in central Athens. “We don’t live in a jail, we’re civilized human beings and I don’t like it at all,” she told Reuters.
Not everyone was opposed to the rule aimed at protecting public health and urging anti-vaxxers, who have been violent at times, to get the shot they think isn’t safe or effective or is part of an international conspiracy to alter their DNA or control their minds.
“They will be effective as long as they are implemented correctly and by all,” Giorgos, a customer in a cafe who declined to give his last name, told the news agency. “I think they were late in coming too, they should have implemented these measures a lot sooner.”
As part of the new measures, all unvaccinated workers should also test negative twice a week at their own cost, 10 euros ($11.55) each time.
Only about 61 percent of Greece’s population of 10.7 million has been fully protected, with two shots of most versions or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson version from the United States, short of the 70 percent benchmark that health authorities said is needed to beat back the pandemic.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said if that level wasn’t reached that he would consider mandatory shots for all but has backed away from the pledge, leaving health care workers the only ones required to do so.
Most unvaccinated in Greece are now required to present a negative test once a week to get to their workplace and Health Minister Thanos Plevris said Greece will soon send letters and text messages as part of a new campaign although repeated persuasion has failed.