Greece toughens vaccine rules as coronavirus cases mount again

ATHENS — Greece became the latest European country on Thursday to impose further restrictions on unvaccinated citizens amid rising coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

Starting Monday, those without a vaccine certificate will be barred from indoor venues such as cinemas, theaters and gyms. They were already not allowed inside restaurants, bars and cafes. Unvaccinated people will still be able to enter certain essential indoor stores, such as pharmacies and supermarkets, as well as attend church, despite the Church of Greece suggesting negative test results be required for entry.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a televised address announcing the new rules that his plan was for the country “to have a better Christmas this year than last year” and urged Greeks to “vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate.”

Around 62 percent of Greece’s total population has been vaccinated so far — below the EU average of roughly 66 percent — and the rate has stagnated in recent months.

Mitsotakis also announced that those over 60 years old who are eligible for a booster shot must get one within the next month, or their immunization certificates will become invalid seven months after receiving their initial vaccines.

He added that he will write to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, suggesting the EU’s digital COVID-19 pass also become conditioned on booster shots after six months, “in order to avoid any crack in the wall of immunity that has already been built on our continent.” France last week also said its coronavirus pass would be conditioned on booster shots for those eligible to receive them over age 65.

The new measures also include staggered working hours for those in both the private and public sectors to avoid overcrowding, especially at rush hour times and on public transport, while controls will be ramped up: Mitsotakis said Greek authorities will carry out random checks to make sure the rules are applied.

Private doctors will be pulled in to support the National Health System, which has been under extreme pressure, as the number of daily infections hit record highs this month.

“This is indeed a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Mitsotakis said. “Greece is mourning unnecessary losses because it simply does not have the vaccination rates of other EU countries.”



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