Government bracing for September challenges

Opening of schools, health system pressures and TIF announcements top busy agenda

Government bracing for September challenges

September is seen as a pivotal month for the overall course of the government as it marks the beginning of the new political season.

For one, the dynamics of the pandemic and its effects on the economy will become clear. Moreover, the government will seek to limit the political impact of the summer wildfires and the side effects of the recent reshuffle with retired army general Evangelos Apostolakis’ refusal to accept a ministerial post.

As a result, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitisotakis’ speech at the Thessaloniki Trade Fair this month – where he will unveil the roadmap for economic policy over the next two years – takes on added significance. Special attention will also be given to the pressure on households by possible price increases, such as power hikes. At the same time the pandemic remains a serious source of concern. Despite the relative stabilization of the coronavirus and the increase in vaccination rates after the summer dip, the challenges that lie ahead remain formidable.

Among these is the opening of schools and universities, the forthcoming exclusion of unvaccinated people from many inside areas, the operation of the National Health System after the suspensions, and the gradual deterioration of the weather, when most social life moves back indoors.

The government’s two main priorities are to avoid pressure on the National Health System and a possible consequent lockdown of the economy, which would not only have high budgetary costs but also halt the high growth rates of recent months. It now considers it certain that GDP growth will exceed the recorded target of 3.6%, with some estimates looking at about 5%.

As for the unvaccinated, they will start to feel the pressure when their movements will be curtailed in the fall and winter and workers will have to bear the financial cost of successive molecular tests. Encouragingly, from August 15 until Friday morning, 296,364 vaccination appointments were booked.

The situation at schools appears manageable, given the high rates of vaccinated teachers and the fact that student testing will increase significantly. On the other hand, there is clearly a greater concern about universities. Unvaccinated students will have to submit negative molecular tests, with senior-ranking government officials expressing strong doubts about whether the system can work, given the prevalent, charged, atmosphere.

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