Greece will tighten restrictions on people unvaccinated against the coronavirus as rising cases and hospitalisations strain the nation’s health systems.
It joins Germany, Austria and other European countries in attempting to pressure more people into getting their inoculations.
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“Even those who are still hesitant can change their minds by listening to what the unvaccinated who get sick have to say,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a televised national address on Thursday.
Almost nine out of every 10 people in Greek ICUs with Covid-19 are unvaccinated, he said.
Mitsotakis said that from Monday, unvaccinated people will lose access to indoor venues including cinemas, theaters, gyms and museums. The government banned their entrance to restaurants, bars and cafes in early November.
“It is a direct act of protection and, of course, an indirect urge to be vaccinated,” Mitsotakis said. Unvaccinated people can still attend church with a negative test, he said.
Since restrictions made in early November, Greece has reported some 100 000 new Covid-19 cases, more than the total number of cases for October, and almost 1 000 deaths, pushing total casualties since the start of the pandemic to more than 17 000.
Greece’s vaccination numbers have also picked up this month after the earlier round of restrictions.
More than 195 000 people have had a first shot since November 2, around the same as total inoculations in October. Greece started booster shots in late September, and from Friday the third vaccine will be available for everyone 18 years and older.
About 65% of Greeks have had at least one vaccine dose, and 62% are fully immunized. That’s much lower than Western European countries like Spain and Italy, and similar to neighboring Turkey, where about 60% are fully vaccinated.
As hospitalisations rise, the government on Thursday ordered private doctors to also work with the national health system.
The premier said that a rotation system will apply to private and public sector workers to avoid crowding in rush hours on mass transportation.
He also announced that those above 60 years old will need to do the third shot in order to keep their vaccination certificates current, and that he plans to request to the European Union president that the EU’s digital vaccine certification show whether people have had a third shot or not.
“Get vaccinated, get vaccinated, get vaccinated,” Mitsotakis said in closing his address.
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