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In COVID-19 Fight, Greece Eyes Vaccinating 12-15 Year-Olds

July 19, 2021

ATHENS – Still not requiring mandatory shots, Greece's New Democracy government now is leaning toward offering them to 12-15 year-olds in a bid to slow a re-surging COVID-19, while adding tougher restrictions.

The government's advisory panel of doctors and scientists is trying to decide whether to recommend the shots for the youngsters even as a hard-core anti-vaxxer segment is holding back the fight against the pandemic.

A number of countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Japan and Italy have approved vaccination of that age group who are among the most resistant to the virus.

The government nonetheless believes vaccinating them will help beat back the pandemic while it's not moving to make shots compulsory even for public employees or tourism workers while the virus spreads on islands.

After waiting for months, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis finally decided that shots would be mandatory for health care workers as less than half the country's population of 10.7 million has been vaccinated and 70 percent is needed to help bring the pandemic to an end.

With the Delta Variant now representing half the cases, there is worry that it will undercut hopes to lure more tourists because it could put Greece in a category where other countries will bar travel to the country.

Health officials said Greece can't enter autumn without making the pandemic recede because it will bump into flu season and also further hurt an economy struggling to recover with businesses allowed open, even for the unvaccinated.

Activity will also move indoors then which is riskier and a third booster shot for vaccines requiring two shots could be required, all combining to prevent reaching so-called herd immunity.

Greece became the latest to enact new restrictions, requiring proof of vaccination or recent recovery from COVID-19 for access to indoor restaurants, cafes, bars and movie theaters. Children can enter with negative tests.

The measure, part of a package of government incentives, had little immediate effect as virtually all public life moves outdoors during Greece's hot, dry summers. Sidewalk cafes and restaurants and open-air movie theaters remain accessible to all.

“At the moment it’s the middle of summer, people prefer being outside, under the trees, and people don’t want to sit indoors,” said Sprios Bairaktaris, owner of a popular Greek taverna in the tourist district of Athens that has both indoor and outdoor areas.

Nevertheless, he was still implementing the government measure, only allowing customers with COVID-19 certificates to be seated inside.

“We adhere to all the measures with total safety. Whatever the doctors or scientists advise,” he said.

Outdoor clubs and music venues in Greece will also be accessible only to the fully vaccinated or recently recovered, with capacity capped at 85 percent and also no standing customers allowed in.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

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