NEWS

Gov’t says it’s ready to do what is needed

Referring to EU chief’s comments on mandatory shots, spokesman doesn’t rule out necessary moves

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As Greece Thursday confirmed its first case of Covid-19 caused by the Omicron variant, the government said it did not rule out an extension of mandatory vaccinations to other groups apart from those over-60s if the need arises.

More specifically, commenting on the statement by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen regarding compulsory vaccination and whether Greece is considering it, government spokesperson Giannis Oikonomou said, “We are ready at any time to do what we need to do concerning the pandemic.”

“With our decision on compulsory vaccination, we are one of the first countries and there will be others,” he said at a press conference specifying the measures in the law mandating vaccination for all people over the age of 60. Mandatory moves, he said, are “the last resort for vaccination coverage.”

Later Thursday, Health Minister Thanos Plevris announced the country’s first case of Omicron. The infected person is a Greek man who lives in Johannesburg and flew from South Africa to Crete for a holiday.

The man, who is fully vaccinated, arrived on Crete on November 26 and took a rapid antigen test at the airport which turned out negative. A second test the next day, after he developed mild symptoms of Covid-19, again presented a negative result, but a third on November 29 confirmed his infection, which was the Omicron variant. He remains in quarantine and his contacts have tested negative. 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Thursday he has a “moral obligation to use all the tools at our disposal to convince all citizens over the age of 60 of the need to get vaccinated.”

Mitsotakis stressed during a meeting with the World Health Organization regional director for Europe, Dr Hans Kluge, in Athens that the government’s policy aimed to boost vaccination rates before Christmas. They also discussed the possibility of reducing the interval before the third booster shot to four months from the current six.

Oikonomou said that any decisions on this issue are expected “very soon, possibly within a week.”

Also Thursday, pressure continued to mount of the National Health System as the number of patients intubated in intensive care units rose to 704. Health authorities announced 6,260 new cases of coronavirus and 89 fatalities. Thirteen of the 6,260 cases involved tourists tested upon arrival.