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Greek PM Touts Vaccine Certificate Program, Tourism Recovery in 2021

Vaccine certificate
Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis promoted his idea for a vaccine certificate to ease travel in 2021 in an interview with Bloomberg on Monday. Credit: Greek Government

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis again touted his vaccine certificate initiative during an interview with the Bloomberg news outlet on Monday. Professing that there will be a noticeable improvement in the coronavirus situation by April, the Greek leader stated that he was optimistic for a much-improved summer tourism season in Greece.

Thanks to Greece’s effective vaccine rollout, coupled with the country’s successful management of the coronavirus pandemic, the nation will begin to see an improvement in the economy in the next few months, he noted.

Stating that several European Union member states have expressed support for his vaccine certificate idea, the Greek premier expressed his hopes that there would soon be widespread European solidarity for the concept.

Travel would be greatly facilitated

“A vaccination certificate will allow you to enter Greece, without having to show a negative Covid test or undergo quarantine restrictions,” Mitsotakis explained. “And we intend to continue in the same context in which we agreed in principle with Israel. This vaccination certificate will be accepted, with the aim of facilitating travel from Israel to Greece,” he noted.

“People will want to travel. For me it does not make sense not to facilitate travel – to the extent of course that we will feel comfortable welcoming those who have been vaccinated,” he added.

“For those who have not been vaccinated, the most likely scenario is that they will be asked for some form of negative test. But for those who have been vaccinated, we want to make it as easy as possible for them to travel to Greece. I see that many EU Member States are interested in further exploring this idea. And I think the reason is that their citizens want to travel and they want to make travel as easy as possible, especially during the summer holidays,” Mitsotakis stated.

Completely digital vaccine rollout in Greece

Mitsotakis praised the speed of the vaccine program, saying that it was a completely digital process, which he acknowledged even “came as a surprise to many Greeks,” leading the country to be able to inoculate the population at what he said was at “a very fast pace” compared to some other European countries.

Naturally, he added, Greece is dependent in this regard on the number of vaccines that the country receives from Europe, but he expects the number of vaccines in the second quarter “to ramp up significantly.”

Asked if there was any intention to vaccinate the residents of Greek islands next, in order to facilitate the influx of tourists there, Mitsotakis explained that only after the elderly and those suffering from underlying conditions are inoculated will it be possible to look at other scenarios.

“Significant portion of the Greek public” vaccinated by Summer

He then added that he hopes that “come Summer, a significant section of the Greek population will be vaccinated.” Even last Summer, he said, Greece opened up safely to tourism, back when there were “no tools to fight it such as the vaccines that are in use now, and with a limited amount of testing as well.”

With approximately six percent of the Greek population now inoculated against the coronavirus, Mitsotakis added that as a medium sized European country, “Greece has benefitted” from the approach which stipulates that the EU apportion the vaccines according to the population of each member nation.

While acknowledging that there had been “issues” in the rollout of the vaccination campaign on an EU-wide scale, he added that the President of the European Commission had accordingly accepted her share of the responsibility for these shortcomings, stressing  that “now we need to move forward” in the campaign.

Greece “will not run behind”

Now, as yet more new vaccines are approved, Mitsotakis stated his belief that Greece “will not run behind in terms of how quickly we receive them.

“We’ve learned our lesson and we need to move forward,” he stated, so that “come March and April, new vaccines are approved, that there is no further delay in delivering the vaccines to the member states.

“We have the capacity to administer many more vaccines than we are currently administering and we have the infrastructure,” he stated. “It’s simply a matter of us getting our hands on the vaccines and at the end of the day, that’s a European decision.”

Productive base of the Greek economy “intact”

The Greek premier also expressed his hope that the current lockdown would be the last to be imposed in the country.

As to the economic impact of the most recent lockdown, Mitsotakis acknowledged that indeed that “Q1 is not looking as good as we thought it would look like a few months ago,” but hopefully in a few weeks “after cases are brought down significantly,” the lockdown would be lifted.

“Our intention was to keep the productive base of the economy intact,” Mitsotakis explained. “We managed to keep retail open for three weeks in January. Other countries are in much stricter lockdowns,” he noted.

“Healthy recovery in Q2”

At this point, the Greek PM added, he is “looking for to a healthy recovery in Q2″ of this year.

Emphasizing that there has been a sea change in how Greece is perceived by foreign investors, Mitsotakis said that the nation has restored its credibility abroad.

Greece is now able to borrow with low interest rates, and has been approved to pay off a major part of its debt to the International Monetary Fund — amounting to €3.3 billion out of a total of €5.1 billion.

The Greek PM also remarked that of late there had even been  improvement in Eastern Mediterranean tensions, which had ramped up in 2020 after multiple incursions onto Greek maritime territory and airspace by Turkey.

“We have seen some months of lower intensity, which is certainly welcome, and I hope we continue on this path. Based on geography, we will always be neighbors with Turkey,” the Greek leader noted. “There have been periods of very good relations, despite the fact that some issues have not been resolved,” he added.

Mitsotakis also remarked that his country has recently strengthened its alliances with countries that respect international law. Just last week, the Greek leader met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at which time the two leaders lauded their increased cooperation in the realms of the economy and defense.

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