Greece Tightens Covid Restrictions on the Unvaccinated
Greece tightens restrictions on the unvaccinated as virus cases spike.
By Niki Kitsantonis
- Nov. 3, 2021Updated 3:32 p.m. ET
As Greece broke another record in daily coronavirus infections this week, registering 6,700 new cases within the past 24 hours, the country’s health minister announced a series of new restrictions aimed at flattening the spike.
The restrictions, which are to apply from Saturday, relate to unvaccinated people, said the health minister, Thanos Plevris.
All unvaccinated workers — except those who work from home exclusively — must undergo two Covid-19 tests per week. A negative rapid or PCR test will also be required from unvaccinated people who want to access public services, banks, shops and hair salons. The same will apply at cafes and restaurants, which are allowed to serve the unvaccinated outdoors. The rules will not apply to supermarkets, pharmacies and churches.
The authorities will also intensify inspections and boost fines on businesses that violate regulations, increasing the minimum fine to 5,000 euros, from 1,000, Mr. Plevris said.
In addition, in a bid to boost a lagging vaccination drive, the government is launching a campaign to win over the unvaccinated, sending text messages to mobile phones and running notices in the media extolling the benefits of the vaccine. “Our key weapon in this phase of the campaign is the vaccine,” Mr. Plevris said, adding that “the more intense restrictive measures” imposed earlier in the pandemic were not an option, apparently referring to nationwide lockdowns.
The announcements came as Greece experiences a sharp upturn in its daily infection rate, breaking record after record: 4,696 on Saturday, 5,449 on Monday and 6,700 on Tuesday.
Last month the government lifted some pandemic restrictions, chiefly for vaccinated people, in regions where coronavirus cases have been the highest. In late September and early October, the daily infection rate appeared to have stabilized at around 2,000 new cases per day but started edging up late last month.
Greece — a nation of 10.7 million, where six in 10 people have been fully vaccinated — enjoys a vaccination rate similar to the rest of Europe. Mr. Plevris, the health minister, said on Tuesday that 63 percent of the general population has been fully vaccinated. The corresponding rate for the European Union is 64.3 percent, according to the vaccine tracker of the European Center for Disease and Control.
But other E.U. states have applied tougher restrictions on the unvaccinated. Italy has some of the bloc’s most stringent regulations, notably the Green Pass, a mandatory health certificate for Italian workers which has fueled violent protests across the country. France has introduced a similar pass, which has also met with vehement public opposition.
Protests in Greece have been regular but relatively small in size. On Wednesday, a rally in Athens against mandatory vaccinations for health workers drew a few hundred demonstrators.