ATHENS – There are no plans for another lockdown, nor more health restrictions yet or mandatory vaccinations as Greece girds for an expected wave of the COVID-19 Omicron Variant that could put further pressure on public hospitals and the National Health System.
While the strain has so far been mild in its effects, it is far more contagious than ever the still dominant Delta Variant and resistant to vaccines, providing another obstacle to slowing the pandemic.
The New Democracy government is continuing to rely on a persuasion campaign for vaccinations that has largely failed, with the unvaccinated barred from most public gathering spots although no reports if it’s being widely enforced, with the Greek Church said it’s not for worshippers.
There is also worry that family gatherings and Christmas shopping during the holidays will also spread the Coronavirus as well as anti-vaxxers who aren’t being compelled to take the shots.
While urging tourists to come even during the autumn and winter, the government has set in place a requirement that even the vaccinated have to show a negative PCR test admistered within 72 hours before arrival or a rapid antigen test in the previous 48 hours.
Health officials, said Kathimerini, anticipate that Omicron will overtake the country in January when the holidays pass, just as the number of cases and hospitalizations was starting to recede, but not deaths.
So far, only health care workers are required to be inoculated, not even police charged with enforcing health restrictions, the force having large numbers of officers who aren’t vaccinated.
Those over 60 who aren’t vaccinated or haven’t made a shot appointment by Jan. 16, 2022 will face monthly fines of 100 euros ($112.67) that for pensioners would be deducted from their benefits, no word how others would have to pay.
Officials estimate that not much more than 50 percent of 530,000 in that category will be vaccinated by the deadline which will put the government in the tough position of fining the elderly and most vulnerable.
Read more: Tsiodras Urges Strict Observance of Existing COVID Measures Over Holidays
“Mandatory rapid tests to visit indoor areas a possibility”
The use of mandatory rapid tests to enter certain indoor venues with high levels of traffic, to be paid for by the individuals involved, is among the measures that may be introduced in response to the Omicron variant, government spokesperson Yiannis Oikonomou said on Monday.
He said the measure may be taken, depending on the recommendations of the experts, during the holidays and will be announced well ahead of time.
Oikonomou noted that the situation concerning Omicron was “a dynamic process” and was being closely monitored, along with the steps taken in the rest of Europe, in order to protect Greece.
“The momentum of Omicron and the new situation in brings may possibly force us to take measures of this sort to further protect the vaccinated also, as the new variant is uncharted territory,” he added.
He noted that all countries were being forced to adjust their strategy and take additional measures in response to Omicron but clarified that there were no recommendations currently concerning schools.
Read more: Greece Confirms 3,689 New COVID Cases on Monday, 85 Deaths