Eyeing summer, Greece drops COVID-19 rules and rolls out boosters
Evangelo Sipsas in Athens
In Denmark, Sweden, Poland and a growing number of European nations, governments are dropping their COVID-19 measures and becoming permit restriction-free for travelers.
With tourism season just around the corner, Greek officials announced they will be lifting restrictions starting May 1, while the country's vaccine booster program goes into full gear.
Starting next week, Greeks will be able to access bars, restaurants, cafes and shopping centers for four summer months without having to prove they got inoculated or a negative COVID-19 test.
"From May 1 until August 31, citizens will no longer need to show a vaccine certificate in both indoor and outdoor areas," announced Health Minister Thanos Plevris. "This also means that those that were accessing areas with a negative COVID-19 test will no longer need to do so."
And as Greece moves ahead with its easing of restrictions, another measure is already underway in full swing: second booster shots.
The new boosters that started last week are available to everyone over 60, with the National Vaccination Committee focusing its efforts on getting jabs to the over-65s as well as people with underlying health conditions.
The government's booking platform opened just last week, and more than 40,000 booster shots have already been booked.
"I did it because we have to do it," said Maria Gianopoulou after getting her fourth jab. "It's the only way we can protect ourselves, our friends, our children, our grandchildren. I think it's the only thing we can do to stay safe and it's the right decision."
The hesitant medic
As vaccinations are not mandatory and only recommended for this age group, some people seem to be put off by what they have read online, fearing potential-side effects from the additional jab – especially when those online messages are being promoted by people within the medical community.
One such dissenter is cardiac surgeon Argiris Dalianis. "I don't have any issues with vaccines," he insists. "We've all been vaccinated in the past or vaccinated our children, with the flu shot or even more serious ones – like the yellow fever, which I did when I went to Africa.
"But the COVID-19 vaccine is a new one and I'm a bit hesitant," he explains. "I've also seen some side-effects from it. Personally, I contracted the virus twice and I haven't seen much scientific evidence after having COVID-19 to support the use of the vaccine or any type of booster shots."
The country's health minister says coronavirus measures will be gradually lifted over the next four months, but Greeks are being warned to be prepared for possible new measures in the fall.
Meanwhile, the hope is that this latest round of booster shots will help Greece enter a new phase of living with the virus.