Amid the latest uncertainty ushered by the Omicron variant and the mounting pressure on the country’s hospitals, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Tuesday announced that vaccination will be mandatory for citizens over the age of 60, and that both vaccinated and unvaccinated adults will be provided with free self-tests shortly before and after the holidays.
The decision on the mandatory vaccination of the over-60s will be activated on January 16, and will be accompanied by a fine of 100 euros per month, automatically charged via the Independent Authority for Public Revenue for all those who insist on refusing to be vaccinated.
“Of our 580,000 unvaccinated fellow citizens over the age of 60, unfortunately only 60,000 rushed to get vaccinated in November,” Mitostakis said on Tuesday, as the government stressed that all alternative persuasion efforts have been exhausted, making the new measure inevitable.
The decision, he said, was not easy.
“It is a decision that I must tell you tormented me personally,” Mitsotakis told the cabinet.
“However, I feel a heavier responsibility to stand by the most vulnerable, even if they may be temporarily unhappy. I have absolutely no doubt that our political decision will save human lives,” he stressed, adding that the fines “will be collected in a special fund which will finance the hospitals.”
“It is mainly the [people] over 60 who are hospitalized and unfortunately many of them are lost. And as we have said many times, they are unjust deaths,” Mitsotakis noted.
According to government sources, the data from the hospitals are revealing.
“Among the over-60s, nine out 10 deaths are Covid-related, while seven out of 10 intubated patients also belong to the same age group,” the sources said.
Hammering the point home, Minister of State Akis Skertsos said in a social media post that in countries such as Portugal and Denmark, where the vaccination rate in this age group is 99% (compared to 83% in Greece), the pressure on the health system and the loss of lives is up to 10 times smaller compared to the corresponding Greek data.
“We have entered the cycle of the third shot, and a global cycle of uncertainty has opened due to the new variant… we can’t be still discussing the first dose of the vaccine in Greece,” a government source pointed out.