The Greek government is offering two free self-assessment tests to all citizens during the Christmas and New Years periods, and is abandoning the idea of a “rapid test for vaccinated in restaurants and gated entertainment venues.”
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced on Tuesday that citizens with a Social Security Number (AMKA) will be eligible for two free self-tests during the holiday season. In addition, he said there will be no additional security measures or restrictions against Covid-19 during the holidays.
Self-tests are available at the pharmacy, and vaccinated or unvaccinated citizens are encouraged to do them before and after community gatherings during Christmas and New Years.
Free test kits are expected to be distributed in the next few days.
“It is true that I have been advised to introduce mandatory rapid tests for everyone upon admission to all recreational facilities. I turned down this proposal because I thought it would be unfair to the vaccinated and ultimately too difficult to implement, ”Prime Minister Mitsotakis said during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
“Today we are addressing the citizens with a two-stage plan. The first step is to spend your vacation in safety, without freezing the economy and society, but also without costing us for today’s activities. And, of course, at this time, our weapons are being tested. Everyone, regardless of whether he is vaccinated or not, must pass a self-test, ”the prime minister said.
As for the second phase, he said it will affect the first weeks of 2022, and the restrictions could include remote work, reduced opening times for restaurants, bars and entertainment.
“Depending on how the pandemic develops, we have a number of options at our disposal, such as extending telecommuting, changing the opening hours of restaurants and entertainment venues. However, we are against the suspension of schools. But everything, I emphasize, will be decided by the data at that moment. No decision has been made yet, ”added Mitsotakis.
He urged citizens to take the initiative to test themselves before each meeting as an added precaution, regardless of their vaccination status.
The political price of a rapid test
On Monday, there were leaks to the press, and ministers talked about “mandatory rapid tests in closed restaurants, bars and entertainment venues for all over 5 years old” ahead of New Year’s Eve, which is also possible on Christmas Eve. The country’s chief epidemiologist Sotiris Tsiodras said, “those with booster vaccinations should be excluded,” while Health Minister Thanos Pleuris, like a tiny dictator from other times, openly warned that “those who violate the Christmas measures will be bitter regret it. “
This caused outrage on social media, since in any case, only vaccinated citizens and those who have recovered from the coronavirus are allowed into such institutions.
The leaks also claimed that it was recommended by the Committee of Epidemiologists.
Tuesday morning two committee members , Professor Alquiviades Vatopoulos and the President of the Association of Greek Physicians Athanasios Exadaktylos told the media that they never made such a recommendation. The latter also added that the committee has not met for the past 15 days.
Obviously, the prime minister took into account the “political cost” of the rapid test paid by those he promised to “get vaccinated to help us get our lives back” and decided that the self-test would be free for everyone and therefore only as a recommendation.
Note that at the beginning of the month, the government offered about 6 million free self-tests, but citizen interest was below 70 percent.