ATHENS — The novel coronavirus pandemic has now become a "pandemic for the unvaccinated", Minister of State Akis Skertsos said on Tuesday in an interview with the radio station "Real FM", noting that this was especially true for those over 60.
"Nine in 10 deaths from coronavirus are of people over 60. Eight in 10 admissions to ICUs are people over 60. Nine in 10 people that are over 60 and have been admitted to an ICU are unfortunately unvaccinated," he pointed out.
This meant that "we have a pandemic for the unvaccinated and that this is where we must focus our efforts, to persuade those still thinking about [getting vaccinated], who are afraid and hesitate…We must go to the micro-level and recruit all our resources on the level of scientists, social networks, the level of people with influence and credibility," he said.
Skertsos underlined that the economy will not be shut down for the one third of people that have not yet been fully vaccinated in Greece, while it has been shown that the potential strain on the health system is now much smaller as a result of vaccinations, with two to three times fewer hospital admissions, ICU admissions and deaths.
While the government encouraged the vaccination of children, he added, the effort must focus on vaccinating those over 60, who were most at risk. The minister said that the current vaccination rate, with 67 pct of Greeks having received at least one dose, was high relative to the initial targets but that these had changed following the emergence of the Delta variant, which required higher levels of immunity to stop transmission.
"We have roughly 7.5 million citizens that have either natural or artificial immunity, meaning that three in four Greeks is protected against the coronavirus," he added and stressed that lockdowns were now "off the table" as an option and that Greece has entered a new phase of the pandemic "in which we live with the virus". He also pointed to other protection measures, such as extensive mass testing to stop the virus spreading.
Skertsos ruled out early elections, repeating that the government intends to continue until the end of its term and be judged by the results of its policies. "We believe deeply and honestly that these policies will improve the lives of all Greeks. They are changing Greece for all Greek men and women," he said.
Replying to questions about the recent fires, Skertsos said the government intends to introduce a tougher framework fo arson and arsonists, noting that this had been on the agenda before the fires broke out."