Omicron fears prompt fresh restrictions

Omicron fears prompt fresh restrictions

With an Omicron tidal wave expected to hit Greece within January, the government is scrambling for options to protect public health without unduly disrupting social and economic activity. 

With this objective in mind, authorities Thursday announced a package of measures ahead of Christmas and New Year’s Eve to stem infections, while indicating that further curbs are in the pipeline early in 2022.

As of Friday, face coverings are mandatory in indoor and outdoor spaces, while a KN95 or double mask will be required on public transport and at supermarkets. All city-led public events and festivals during the holidays have been canceled.

On top of the mandatory PCR or rapid test, travelers visiting Greece are strongly recommended to repeat testing on the second and fourth day after their arrival.

More measures are to come into force after January 3, affecting entertainment, sports activities and remote working. In-person school classes will most likely continue as epidemiological data so far suggest that the reopening of schools saw only a low risk of transmission. On the contrary, there are indications that when schools are closed, pupils tend to gather in cafes and public squares, increasing the risk of infection.

Health Minister Thanos Plevris reiterated Thursday that a general lockdown is not in the cards. However, judging from the pattern in other European countries, analysts say that the prospect should not be ruled out.

Officials are meanwhile placing hope in the increase in Covid vaccinations as, given the current rate, more than 5 million people will have received the booster shot within the next 25 days. The government is understood to be mulling plans to make jabs mandatory for people aged 50 and over. In the government’s favor, a recent public survey showed that the number of vaccine resisters has dropped by 12 percent since July. Meanwhile, 43 percent called for more stringent measures to halt the pandemic.

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