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Greece’s Pandemic Worsens, Dispute Over Autumn Immunity Target

ATHENS – Vaccinations won't be made mandatory in Greece even though  COVID-19 is resurging, but differences have arisen over whether enough people will be inoculated by the autumn to slow the pandemic or whether it will get worse.

Minister of State Akis Skertsos said he believes there will be a 70 percent full vaccination rate by then – it's 61 percent now but has slowed – and that the pandemic will begin to be cut back.

But Matina Pagoni, President of the Athens-Piraeus hospital doctors union, said since the pandemic rose during warmer weather, when it was supposed to have slowed, that it will jump even more when the cold weather comes and coincides with the flu season.

In an article in the newspaper Ta Nea, Skertsos also said that health restrictions imposed on the unvaccinated aren't a punishment but a persuasion technique to convince them to get the shots, which hasn't worked yet.

“If we had managed to vaccinate the entire population of the country, we would now have just 50 cases intubated in hospitals throughout the country instead of 332. We would, in other words, have converted the pandemic into a severe flu that primarily poses a threat to those suffering from other underlying diseases and that does not have an unbearably high cost in human lives nor overburdens the health system,” he said, reported the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency (ANA-MPA.)

He spoke as cases kept above the 3,000 daily mark – 10 times what it was earlier in the summer before tourists were admitted, health measures from an already lenient lockdown were eased, anti-vaxxers spread the virus and more people stopped wearing masks and staying away from each other.

Deaths are also creeping up as are the numbers of patients in critical conditions in public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) that are more than two-thirds full and more being added daily.

Despite all that, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis – after saying he couldn't force health care workers to be vaccinated – finally gave that order after waiting months to do it.

He said he may make vaccines a requirement for all in the fall if the pandemic keeps going up and anti-vaxxers still refuse to get the shots, and as they are the main target of the Delta Variant from Indian now the dominant strain in Greece.

In an interview with TV station Open Sunday, Pagoni said with students returning to class, churches exempted from vaccination rules and public gatherings still going and people returning home from holidays who may be bringing the virus with them that prospects for a safe autumn aren't good.

added that the restart of schools and universities will increase mobility, and congregations, and urged that all returning holidaymakers who hve not already done so ve vaccinated.

And while the number of people on ventilators is less than half than during its peak, Pagoni said that the health system is already feeling the pressure.

Across the country, 68 percent of the emergency rooms dedicated to the pandemic are filled and in some local hospitals it is closer to 90 percent, said ANA-MPA.

That’s because some emergency rooms used at the peak of hospitalizations have been repurposed to their earlier use, as hospitals also faced a backlog of untreated cases, including postponed surgeries, when they prioritized COVID-19 treatment.

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