COVID MEASURES

Holidays to go ahead without restrictions, but with self-testing

holidays-to-go-ahead-without-restrictions-but-with-self-testing

The government is not planning to introduce additional coronavirus safety measures ahead of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, nor will revelers be required to take a registered rapid test at a pharmacy or testing center before attending gatherings, a cabinet meeting decided on Tuesday.

According to the decisions discussed at the virtual meeting chaired by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, citizens will, instead, be encouraged to test themselves before and after attending gatherings and parties at Christmas and New Year’s, with two free kits being distributed in the next few days.

The self-testing kits will be available at pharmacies for people who have a social security number (AMKA) and come to replace the initial idea of requiring everyone – unvaccinated and vaccinated – to show proof of a negative rapid test at bars, restaurants and clubs over the holiday season.

“It is true that I was advised to introduce mandatory rapid tests for everybody for admission to all leisure and entertainment venues. I rejected the proposal because I thought the measure would be unfair to the vaccinated and ultimately too difficult to implement,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told the cabinet meeting, which was called to discuss measures for preventing a fresh surge in infections.

The prime minister referred to a “two-phase plan,” whereby the first phase foresees citizens testing in large numbers before and after gatherings to ensure they’re not spreading the virus. “We want to spend the holidays in safety, without bringing the economy and society to a standstill, and without having to pay for our holiday activities afterwards,” he said.

He also urged people to take the initiative of testing themselves before every gathering as an additional precaution, regardless of their vaccination status. 

The second phase of the plan, the prime minister explained, will kick in after the holidays and will depend on the country’s performance. “Everything will depend on the data at the time. Nothing has been decided yet,” he said.

Mitsotakis indicated that restrictions may be introduced in the first couple of weeks of the new year, such as expanding work-from-home schemes and changing the opening hours of bars and restaurants, but ruled out the possibility of schools being shut down.

“Tests and basic precautions are our defense. And our stance today will determine the decisions taken tomorrow,” Mitsotakis added.