Greece struggles to shake up security agency after massive fires

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Updated Tuesday August 31, 2021 | 9:11

ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Greece’s center-right government replaced top public security officials following multiple devastating forest fires across the country this month, but it also suffered an embarrassing political setback on Tuesday when the retired admiral appointed to oversee the firefighting withdrew hours before his departure. be sworn in.

The government had appointed Evangelos Apostolakis, former head of the Greek armed forces and Minister of Defense under a previous government, as head of a new Ministry of Civil Protection. Apostolakis withdrew after political opposition accused him of being disloyal.

While other new ministers were sworn in on Tuesday, the post for which Apostolakis was appointed remained vacant and responsibility for coordinating firefighting fell to the Ministry of Citizen Protection, according to a government announcement. .

Forest fires that have destroyed more than 1,000 square kilometers (385 square miles) in southern Greece and an August spike in COVID-19 cases have caused public discontent, recent opinion polls show. However, polls also suggest that conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has maintained a solid lead over his main rival, the left-wing Syriza party. The number of daily COVID-19 cases reported by Greece this month is the highest since the start of the pandemic, raising fears that public hospitals will again come under enormous pressure in the fall. Lagging behind the European Union average, 53.4% ​​of the country’s residents have been fully immunized.

As part of the Cabinet overhaul that took effect on Tuesday, the Minister of Health was transferred to oversee tourism. New health minister Athanasios Plevris has defended the government’s plan to suspend unvaccinated public health workers without pay from Wednesday.

“There is no punitive treatment for those who don’t vaccinate,” Plevris said. “But just as a doctor or a health worker has the right not to be vaccinated, a tumor patient also has the right to be treated by a doctor who has been vaccinated.”

___ Theodora Tongas in Athens contributed reporting. Follow Gatopoulos on https://twitter.com/dgatopoulos.



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