THESSALONIKI — Greece’s premier film festival took an unexpected turn Sunday night when anti-vaxxers showed up outside the theater where the awards ceremony was about to begin and shouted obscenities at arriving moviegoers and festival personnel.
Police intervened to keep back the 400 or so protesters who had been marching through Greece’s second largest city to denounce coronavirus vaccines. They eventually left after throwing numerous flyers.
The 62nd Thessaloniki International Film Festival was well attended during its 10-day run. All moviegoers and festival personnel wore masks and had to produce either a vaccination certificate or proof of recovering from COVID-19 within six months prior to their attendance.
Greece is going through a virus resurgence, with daily infections at record levels and both fatalities and the number of people placed on ventilators rising, putting pressure for on the health system for the second time this year.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 831,874 confirmed coronavirus cases in the country of about 10.7 million people. In the past week alone, there were 44,970 virus cases and 471 deaths related to COVID-19.
About 6.5 million people in Greece are fully vaccinated and the recent spike in cases has led to a jump in bookings for a first dose of the vaccines. But there remains a hard core of skeptics, and outright rejectionists, with many embracing conspiracy theories about the vaccines. Anti-vaccination rallies in Thessaloniki have consistently been bigger than similar gatherings in the capital, Athens.