ATHENS – It will have been a long time coming by then, but Greek health authorities said they believe that vaccinations will slow the COVID-19 pandemic enough so that normal life can resume by November.
A big question is how long a third lockdown now extended to March will last with fear that many non-essential businesses closed more than half the previous 12 months since the health crisis began might not be around by then.
Already, restaurant owners have said that as many as half the businesses in the food sector, including bars and taverns, could go out of business if the lockdown continues or the pandemic doesn’t slow or end.
It has dealt a crushing blow to an economy that was on the verge of accelerating a quicker rebound from a near decade-long crisis worsened by austerity and the need for three international bailouts of 326 billion euros ($392.82 billion) that ended Aug. 20, 2018.
Health experts had advised that vaccinations that are beginning to ramp up after a slow start must be given to at least 70 percent of the country’s population of 10. 7 million – or some 7.49 million people – to work.
Greece expects only about one million to be inoculated by the end of March although more vaccines are being produced almost initial batches require two shots three weeks or three months apart.
A team of researchers at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki who developed a COVID-19 risk evaluation model said the 70 percent mark should be hit by November although many were reluctant to get it, unsure of the safety or efficacy.
By the end of May, a “wall of immunity” for the most vulnerable groups – the elderly and those suffering from serious underlying diseases – will have been built, the researchers said, according to Kathimerini.
“(The wall) doesn’t mean complete freedom but at least means the likelihood of lockdown becomes remote,” said Dimosthenis Sarigiannis, Professor of Environmental Engineering at the university.
There are already 720,000 vaccination appointments for March and more are expected to be made for population categories given less priority although those now in line are 75-79 and 60-64, other groups left waiting.
Analysis of human waste showed rates still high in the the Attica prefecture that includes Athens, which health officials said was because so many people are out and about during the lockdown, and there’s concern about how Coronavirus variants from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil will affect the fight against the pandemic even with vaccines now being given.