ATHENS — "As the pandemic continues to be on the retreat in the country, we must not become complacent. The fight against coronavirus is not over. The only safe citizens are vaccinated citizens," government spokesperson Aristotelia Peloni said during a press briefing on Thursday.
"The figures show and scientists warn in the clearest terms that the unvaccinated are at risk. At the same time, they can act as relays for the virus and this fact can generate broader danger for the community. The greater the proportion of the population that is vaccinated, the less room we allow for mutations to spread and infect the unvaccinated. Vaccination is a protective shield for public health and at the same time a ticket for returning to normality," Peloni said.
Referring to comments made on Wednesday by the prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, during a meeting with Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, Peloni said that it was "very sad to be seeing…admissions to hospital, to ICUs and people losing their lives – and almost all of them unvaccinated – when they had the opportunity to protect themselves through the vaccine."
Talking about the prime minister's request for the assistance of the Church in persuading those still hesitating to get the vaccine, she noted that vaccination was not only imperative for a return to normality but as a basic protection of oneself and one's family.
In order to achieve a wall of immunity as soon as possible – and adopting the recommendations of the National Committee of Bioethics and Technoethics – the government is adopting an supplementary strategy that includes specific measures to encourage vaccination, she said. These include the 'Freedom Pass' bonus of 150 euros for young people aged 18-25, which acts as both 'compensation' and an incentive to this age group to get vaccinated, she added.
She also pointed out that some businesses have supported this initiative by giving young people additional benefits and offers in their area of activity. "The prime minister applauded their example and encourages more businesses to act accordingly," Peloni added.
The spokesperson also referred to the measures announced on Tuesday about the new public health rules in venues providing leisure and entertainment services, designed to provide protection in places that tend to get crowded and to gradually restore freedoms to vaccinated citizens.
"From July 15 onwards, therefore, there is the option to operate such spaces as 'immune-only' or mixed. The immune-only spaces can be attended by people who have been vaccinated or have fallen ill and recovered from Covid-19 in the last six months. The mixed areas, in addition to the above two categories, can admit those who have done a rapid or PCR test," she said.
Peloni explained that each business must declare whether it will operate as one or the other, leaving it up to each individual business owner to decide whether they will admit people that have not been vaccinated. Documents shown by customers will be checked at the entrance using a digital app, which will be provided for free, to determine whether the certificates are genuine, without keeping any record.
Businesses will also be required to display a special sign at the entrance showing which category they belong to, she said, while the measures will fully respect privacy laws.
She warned that both businesses and customers will face stiff penalties, to be announced in the coming days, if they fail to observe public health rules. She also made clear that the same rules will apply to both Greeks and foreigners, who will also be required to present certifates of vaccination, previous illness with Covid or a negative test, depending on the venues they visit.
Government dealing with challenges and continuing reforms
The government, at the same time as dealing with the challenges, is continuing reforms that boost confidence in Greece's economy and prepare the way for the future, Peloni said. She noted that the latest meetings of the cabinet discussed legislative initiatives for greatly important reforms, such as that for supplementary pensions and for improving schools.
Other greatly important bills, she added, included the new developmental law 'Greece 2.0', which makes changes designed reflect new targets and strategic directions under the National Recovery and Resilience Plan. The aim is for this to be an attractive financing tool that boosts private investments and growth, helping the Greek economy make a faster transition to a new growth model based on digital and technological innovation and modernisation, promote the green and digital transition and create more and more specialised jobs.
She also announced that the prime minister is visiting Drama and Xanthi on Thursday and will meet the Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Mathias Cormann on Friday, at the Maximos Mansion in Athens.