ATHENS – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ New Democracy government, which has been holding a double-digit lead over the major rival SYRIZA, is expecting a January hit in the polls over the surge of the COVID-19 pandemic but expects it will be short-lived.
Mitsotakis backed away from a pledge to consider mandatory shots for all of society if the pandemic worsened – and it did, on the back of the Omicron Variant – and that has seen anti-vaxxers further spreading the virus.
His government also decided to let schools reopen on Jan. 10 although there was worry in his advisory panel of doctors and scientists that the classrooms could be hotspots for the virus.
The Education Ministry decided it would be safer to have students, teachers and staff in a controlled environment with three self-tests weekly – two paid by the state – instead of out roaming and gathering in public spots.
Omicron has brought record numbers of cases, hospitalizations, patients on ventilators in public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and deaths although some health advisors said it will likely crest and then fall in January.
If there are outbreaks that see classrooms or schools close, there could be more fallout for the government as Mitsotakis has repeatedly rejected calls from SYRIZA for early elections this year instead of as scheduled in 2023.
The government also will have to keep the public health system and hospitals from being overwhelmed as Mitsotakis also hasn’t moved to recruit private clinics or their ICU’s and only a small number of private doctors were conscripted.
Omicron is less deadly than the Delta Variant by far more contagious and spreads even among the fully vaccinated, although their symptoms are milder, although 16 percent of patients in ICU’s are fully vaccinated.
The other big problem for the government is the jumping prices of electricity and food that has cut deep into households which are still struggling after 2020 and 2021 lockdowns of non-essential businesses and massive job layoffs.