ATHENS – After backing away from a pledge to consider mandatory vaccinations if the COVID-19 pandemic worsened in Greece, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said a lockdown that worked initially wasn’t the answer this time.
Defending his move not to shut down non-essential businesses again as he has made an economic recovery his priority, he said it wasn’t necessary because now there is a vaccine – although rabid anti-vaxxers refusing it are spreading the virus.
He said a lockdown wouldn’t be fair to the 61 percent of the country’s population of 10.7 million people who are fully protected without explaining why he won’t extend mandatory shots to other than health care workers, the only ones now who must comply.
“I do not think the pandemic is over. We are facing a fourth wave which primarily concerns the unvaccinated,” he told Mega TV without indicating why he won’t order mandatory shots.
Instead, his New Democracy government has opted for half measures under which the unvaccinated wouldn’t be allowed to go into most public gathering places such as restaurants although there’s been lax enforcement of that before.
“Now that we have the vaccine, we are not going to go into lockdown. I’m adamant for the simple reason that at the moment three in four have done the right thing and it would be unfair to impose restrictions at a huge cost to tackle a minority problem today,” he said.
His government, however, has exempted churches from requirements to check those entering for negative COVID tests as is being required for other spots, a move which drew criticism from the major opposition SYRIZA Leftists.
Mitsotakis said there was often no one at the entrances to churches, so controls would be difficult without explaining why his government wouldn’t simply require there be a monitor. He said shots won’t be required for the police or army either.
International conferences like the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) offer the only opportunity for all countries to get together and assume commitments to reducing greenhouse emissions, Mitsotakis said.
He also underlined that Greece’s green transition “will not be shouldered by the Greek people,” and that more and better jobs will be shortly created in western Macedonia, where lignite production is being phased out.
Mitsotakis said the rise in prices was a global phenomenon and that inflation was expected to drop as of the start of 2022. The government, he noted, will spend a total of over 500 million euros to help restrain electricity prices. Without this, the bills would have increased tenfold, he added.
As of January 1, 2022 the minimum wage will be raised by 2 percent, while he is determined to introduce a second one within 2022, after real numbers and business resilience are taken into account.