The rapid transmission of the Delta variant of the coronavirus in Greece, particularly among the unvaccinated, is “terrifying,” Panagiotis Arkoumaneas, President of the Greek National Organization for Public Health, stated to Greek news channel Skai on Thursday.
Although cases of the virus have already spiked in recent weeks, with 2,972 cases recorded in the country on Wednesday, Arkoumaneas predicts that there will be “an increase in cases this week and next,” and that studies have shown the Delta variant is to blame for the uptick in cases.
Testing of samples taken from those with the virus shows that instances of the Delta variant in Greece have increased by 10% in the last week, and they now account for 60% of the country’s daily cases.
Delta variant spreads in Greece, creating a “pandemic of the unvaccinated”
Arkoumaneas urged those who have remained unvaccinated in Greece to get the shot, as he noted that 99% of people with the virus in the hospital, including those on ventilators, are unvaccinated.
“This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” he stressed. The Delta variant is much more contagious than the standard virus and even its other variants, and vaccine hesitancy in Greece could provide the perfect environment for the dangerous variant to spread.
Approximately 52 percent of the Greek population is now vaccinated with at least one dose, and 44 percent have had both their doses or were vaccinated with a single dose vaccine.
Unvaccinated tourism workers to test for virus twice a week
Greece is trying to convince the unvaccinated to receive the shot in order to curb the spread of the variant, and has even mandated healthcare workers and those who work in care facilities for the elderly and those with special needs to receive the vaccine.
While those who work in tourism are not required to get the vaccine, Greece is turning up the pressure on those working in the industry to become inoculated.
The country’s panel of medical experts, which includes epidemiologists, virologists, and public health experts, has suggested that all those working in tourism in Greece who are unvaccinated take a coronavirus test twice a week until they get the shot.
One of these tests can be a self test, and the other a rapid test. Those who work in the tourism industry and are unvaccinated will have to officially report the results of their biweekly tests on a government web platform.
Unvaccinated healthcare workers will be placed on unpaid leave
Healthcare workers who remain unvaccinated against Covid-19 will be put on unpaid leave in Greece, according to a measure brought forth by the Greek Health Ministry to Parliament on Wednesday.
In total, 90% of Greek doctors and 73% of nurses in the country have now been vaccinated against Covid-19.
Any healthcare workers — including doctors, nurses, paramedics, and administrative support staff in private or public hospitals, clinics, and care facilities — who refuse to be vaccinated will lose their social security during their unpaid leave if Parliament approves the motion.
The suspension without pay will last until the person receives the vaccine or “as long as the pandemic lasts,” according to a statement from the Ministry.
The legislation will take effect as of August 16 for workers in nursing homes and beginning on September 1 for healthcare staff.
In order to cover any loss of staff, the Greek Health Ministry has proposed hiring healthcare workers on three-month contracts.