Greek authorities are examining the possibility of extending mandatory vaccination against Covid-19 for other professional groups expecting a surge in cases in the coming weeks as Greeks return from their summer holidays and temperatures drop.
Secretary General of Coordination Thanasis Kontogeorgis confirmed on Friday that mandatory vaccination could be extended to other professional groups in the coming months, while State Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis said it may even include the private sector.
Health experts are warning that the Delta variant of the virus, which now accounts for the majority of cases, may infect as many as 10,000 people per day if vaccination is not far-spread and accelerated.
Free Self-tests for Returning Vacationers
As a preventative measure, the health ministry announced on Friday that it would be providing two self-tests available for free (to certain groups) at pharmacies as of Monday, August 30 through to September 6, “strongly advising” returning holidaymakers to get tested before going home.
Greece recorded 3,076 new coronavirus cases on Friday, with ICU units currently over 70 percent capacity and fast approaching their limit.
The government has been pushing for vaccination but people are still reluctant to get the jab, among them public hospital employees, who held a five-hour work stoppage on Thursday protesting against mandatory vaccination.
Deputy Health Minister Vasilis Kontozamanis reiterated however that public health system staff who have not been vaccinated by September 1 will be suspended and face salary cuts.
In preparation, the health ministry said on Wednesday, that it was suspending holiday leave for all healthcare employees in state-run facilities starting September 1 to cover for unvaccinated staff who will be required to leave.
Greece Braces for Autumn Covid-19 Surge
Meanwhile, epidemiologists are urging people to get vaccinated before winter and even wear double masks.
Infectious disease expert Vana Papaevangelou said this week that she expects the viral load to increase primarily on the mainland as a result of youth returning from their holidays and infecting their families. Stressing that the Delta variant affects mostly the young, she urged vaccination, adding that in the last two weeks new hospitalizations increased by 25 percent.
Health Minister Vasilis Kikilias announced this week that mobile vaccination booths would be set up at town squares outside churches, the first to operate this Sunday on Crete.
With the school year set to start on September 13, Education Minister Niki Kerameus also said it was on the agenda to set up vaccination units at universities also appealing to parents to vaccinate their children.