Greece presses vaccine skeptics as infections rise

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Updated 3 hours and 11 minutes ago

ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Healthcare workers in Greece will be suspended if they refuse to be vaccinated under a new mandatory policy announced by the country’s prime minister on Monday.

Nursing home staff will be suspended from August 16 if they do not make an appointment for vaccination, with a similar policy to follow in September for workers in public and private hospitals.

From Friday until the end of August, all interior shopping areas, including bars, cinemas and theaters, will only be available to the vaccinated.

“After a year and a half, no one can claim to ignore the coronavirus anymore,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a televised address. “The country will not close again because of the attitude adopted by some people … It is not Greece that is a danger, but the unvaccinated Greeks.”

The new restrictions will apply nationwide, including the Greek Islands and other key tourist destinations.

COVID-19 infections in Greece have increased since the end of June, with authorities blaming neglect in bars and restaurants as well as the spread of the highly infectious delta variant. The number of daily infections per 100,000 population over seven days has risen from 3.5 on June 24 to more than 17 now.

Just over 40% of residents have been fully immunized, but appointments to start the immunization process have declined in recent weeks, prompting the government to step up pressure on vaccine skeptics.

Authorities will begin accepting requests for vaccination from minors over the age of 14 on Thursday with parental consent.

Long shutdowns and a sharp drop in tourism in 2020 halted the country’s financial recovery and plunged Greece into recession, with the economy contracting 8.2% last year. The European Commission says it expects production to rebound 4.3% this year and 6.0% in 2022 if tourism continues to recover and further lockdowns are avoided.

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