ATHENS – Anti-vaxxer Greek doctors and nurses a court ordered the state to allow to return work won’t be allowed to work in public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) or cancer wards.
They had been suspended without pay for refusing to be inoculated against COVID-19 despite being on the front lines of the battle against the Coronavirus pandemic and seeing people hospitalized and dying daily.
The Health Ministry sent guidelines to the Parliament detailing the prohibitions as the doctors and nurses will resume work on Jan. 1, 2023 as the pandemic wanes.
Health Minister Thanos Plevris said he was reluctantly abiding by a court decision that took all year to come after only health staff were suspended by the New Democracy government if refusing shots.
The government’s advisory panel of doctors, scientists and epidemiological specialists also recommended that all support staff in hospitals, including nurses, wear high-protection masks although that requirement, along with other health restrictions, earlier had been dropped.
“For doctors and nursing staff, the recommendation is that they not be allowed in intensive care units and hospitalization areas where patients are immunosuppressed, such as in cancer wards,” Plevris said, reported the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency ANA-MPA.
Asked by lawmaker whether they would receive back pay for wages lost – which would essentially amount to a near year-long paid vacation – Plevris responded, “There is no issue of payment. Once they return, they start to get paid.”
He clarified that the Council of State, Greece’s highest administrative court, found the measure of suspension constitutional, but struck down its last extension, beyond the end of 2022.
Regarding the monthly fine of up to 100 euros ($106.37) on citizens above 60 years of age who refused to be vaccinated, the fine will be deleted if they got vaccinated after receiving the fine, he said, wiping out their losses.
“It is truly a tough measure,” the minister said. “There is no minister who like to impose fines, but this way vaccination jumped form 55 percent to 80 percent. As soon as the fine was announced, there were 250,000 citizens who decided to be vaccinated at this age group. Therefore, the fine was effective.”
It was those vaccinations that had dropped the rates of infections enough for the health measures to be lifted – to draw tourists – but also allowing the government to earlier give anti-vaxxers the same privileges as the vaccinated to enter public gathering places as well.