ATHENS – As vowed, Greece's New Democracy government on Aug. 16 began suspending – without pay – the first health care workers who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and more will be coming.
Ten employees – five health workers and five administrative staff – at a nursing home in Volos, in central Greece, were put on leave, the head of the facility, Pavlos Panos told local media, told Kathimerini.
He said that a special committee is reviewing an appeal by three workers who have cited health concerns for their refusal to see if mitigating circumstances apply to exempt them.
Three residents of the facility who tested positive for COVID-19 are being treated at the Volos General Hospital, Panos said.
The government said all workers in the health care sector who don't get vaccinated face suspension but has exempted tourism workers, including those on islands where the Coronavirus is spreading.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis hesitated for months before giving the suspension order after he said he couldn't force the workers to be inoculated but then did as the fight against the pandemic has stalled because of anti-vaxxers.
The suspended workers will also lose their social security and not be allowed to work until the pandemic ends, the battle slowed, with some 61 percent of the country's population fully vaccinated, short of the 70 percent goal needed to slow the health crisis, health authorities said.
The mandatory inoculation concerns medical, paramedical, nursing, administrative and support staff in hospitals, as well as private, public and municipal care facilities for the elderly and people with disabilities.
Employers face fines up to 200,000 euros ($235,703) if they don't comply with the directive for suspensions as worry about the pandemic's continuing has grown as the Delta Variant now makes up almost 80 percent of cases.
The legislation implementing suspensions began Aug. 16 for workers at nursing homes and on Sept. 1 will start for all healthcare staff, around 10 percent of whom refuse to be vaccinated for now.
They either doubt the safety or efficacy of the vaccines which have worked to slow the pandemic, or believe it's an international conspiracy to alter their DNA or control their minds.