ATHENS — Greece reported a new record high for daily COVID-19 infections on Tuesday as vaccination appointments shot up after new restrictions on unvaccinated people kicked in over the weekend.
Health authorities recorded more than 8,600 new infections since late Sunday — compared to the previous record of about 7,300 set Monday — amid a constant surge in cases that’s filling hospital intensive care units. Officials also registered 46 new deaths.
About 61% of Greece’s 11 million population has been fully vaccinated so far, which is below the European Union average.
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But senior health ministry official Marios Themistocleous said in a briefing on Monday that over the past seven days there’s been an 185% increase in first vaccination appointments, and a 200% surge in booster shot appointments.
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“It’s a very important increase,” he said. “What has changed is the introduction of the new measures and the high number of infections … But this must continue, and the pace of appointments must increase.”
Rumours of a lockdown circulating on the internet, whether local or general, or about changes to working hours or a shut down of schools, have nothing to do with the government’s intentions, Health Minister Thanos Plevris clarified on Tuesday, speaking to SKAI TV.
“At this time the philosophy of the measures has only to do with the protection of the unvaccinated. If more measures are necessary, these will be along the lines of the measures already announced and will concern restricted access to various locations or the possibility that access will be given with tracking and testing for the unvaccinated,” he said.
“Schools will remain open and infections in schools are currently much lower than forecast,” Plevris added.
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Under the measures that came into effect Saturday, unvaccinated people in Greece can only enter banks, government departments and most shops if they show a recent negative COVID-19 test. The same applies to outdoor restaurant and café areas, while only vaccinated people are allowed indoors at such establishments.
Unrestricted access is still allowed for supermarkets, shops selling food and pharmacies. Unvaccinated people must also present two negative tests weekly to access their workplaces.
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Even the powerful Orthodox Church of Greece, until now lukewarm on pandemic restrictions, last week strongly urged worshippers to only enter churches if they are vaccinated, have recovered from the coronavirus or can show a recent negative test.
The country has so far recorded nearly 800,000 infections and more than 16,300 deaths.