Greece will offer two free coronavirus self tests to all Greeks over the holidays to help curb the spread of the virus, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced on Tuesday.
Mitsotakis decided on the measure after health officials recommended that he make a negative rapid test mandatory for entrance to enclosed spaces such as non-essential stores, restaurants, and cafes, which are currently accessible only by those who have been vaccinated.
The PM stated that he “rejected” the proposal, as he believes “that such a measure would be unfair for the vaccinated and, in the end, very difficult to implement.
“So instead of imposing something on everyone, I chose to trust everyone. And for this very purpose, the state will provide two more free self tests for the entire population,” he added.
Greece offers two free self tests for holidays
It is recommended that all Greeks take one free self test before Christmas and the other just after New Year’s day, but there is no requirement to use the self test.
“At this time, our weapons are tests,” PM Mitsotakis argued, noting “Everyone, vaccinated or not, must self-test” in order to stop the spread of the virus.
This measure is part of a “two phase plan,” as described by Mitsotakis. “The first step is to spend the holidays with safety, without freezing the economy and society but also without the activities of these days costing us later,” he stressed.
The second part of the plan, to be put in place early next year, might include an extension of remote working and adjusting hours of operation for restaurants and other venues, depending on the country’s epidemiological situation after the holidays.
Closing schools across the country, however, is out of the question, Mitsotakis confirmed on Tuesday.
While the omicron coronavirus variant rages in the US and the rest of Europe, Greece has so far only recorded 26 cases of the mutation.
Yet the majority of the omicron cases in the country were not linked to foreign travel, which indicates that the variant is present in the country and is being spread amongst the population.
Health officials fear that the strain could spread rapidly and may even become the dominant strain of the virus in Greece, as it has done elsewhere.
“The situation in Europe worries us; it indicates rapid spread of the new variant, which could lead to a Pan-european epidemic of massive dimensions,” Greek epidemiologist Sotiris Tsiodras stated.
Although the variant may bring about less severe cases of the virus, it seems to be efficient at evading the protection offered by two doses of the vaccine, which is why officials strongly urge those who have been vaccinated receive their third dose.