ATHENS – Just as the New Democracy government set a cap of 47 euros ($53) instead of 60 euros ($68) that private clinics had been charging for molecular COVID-19 tests, the major rival SYRIZA said they should be free.
The government should “stop fooling around and provide molecular (PCR) and rapid tests for free, like nearly all European countries,” the leftists said in another slap at the government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
The call came in response to the lowering of the maximum cost for the tests that are required in some instances, such as traveling, and are out of reach for many Greeks struggling during the pandemic.
SYRIZA accused the government of allowing profiteering over PCR tests for two years, as Greece has received some 32 billion euros ($36 billion) in COVID loans and grants from the European Union with no report yet how it’s been spent.
“Instead of a family paying 240 euros ($271) a week to see if they are sick, they will now pay 188 euros ($213),” the party statement added.
The government, it charged, “has no understanding of reality, the necessary contact tracing of infections, and the economic inability of families to manage even necessary needs in the midst of explosive price hikes,” the state-run Athens Macedonia News Agency (AMNA.)
The government earlier said it had spent 300 million euros ($339 million) to pay for the cost of two self-tests during the holidays as the two rivals engaged in a spat over the handling of the pandemic.
SYRIZA said of New Democracy that, “They have no contact with reality… about the financial inability of households to cope,” adding that lowering the cost of the PCR tests wasn’t enough.
Government Spokesman Yiannis Oikonomou said the state has been doing everything in its power to facilitate the public’s access to diagnostic tests. “We have provided tens of millions of free tests for citizens. Free laboratory tests and rapid tests are being performed across the country,” he said, reported Kathimerini.
The government has tightened health restrictions to try to slow the soaring pandemic that’s rising on the back of the highly-contagious Omicron Variant and is requiring self tests or rapid tests for entrance to schools and other venues and the PCR tests for incoming tourists.
Iliopoulos: Criminal 50 pct+1 protocol in schools must be withdrawn at once
Main opposition SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance spokesperson Nassos Iliopoulos called for the immediate withdrawal of the “criminal 50 pct+1 protocol for schools”, in statements on SKAI television on Wednesday.
“It is a protocol which, as even members of the scientific committee have said, makes no epidemiological sense and converts schools into super-spreader locations and transfers cases into the community,” he said.
The manner in which the government was reopening schools was mathematically certain to make things worse, Iliopoulos asserted, while stressing that “schools must open with safety, they are not simply places to park children.”
“We need to adopt the protocols of other countries that are doing better than we are,” he added, where classes shut down when the first case was detected and the children returned with a negative PCR, class sizes were reduced and, where space was insufficient and in older age groups, there was a morning-afternoon rotation of classes. This was mainly an issue of hiring enough teachers, he pointed out.
He also pointed out the dangers of underestimating the problems that the Omicron variant may cause, saying that France had seen the pressure on its health system double in the last two weeks.
“The more Omicron circulates, the greater the chance that people with underlying ailments will end up in hospital, while there is a greater risk of new, aggressive mutations,” he warned.
Iliopoulos accused the government of attempting to cultivate a fake climate of optimism, while failing to properly prepare and “restricting itself to knocking on wood…” and of having repeatedly announced the “final stretch” of the pandemic in the last year. “In the end, the final stretch has left 15,952 losses in its wake and we have reached the point where the country is at twice the EU average for losses per million residents,” he pointed out.
He also accused the government of not going far enough with the remote working measure and placing a “ceiling” at 60 percent.