Health minister calls on the public to observe restrictions during New Year’s holidays

International data shows that coronavirus cases tend to rise after holidays, Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said on Wednesday, adding that “how we have behaved on New Year’s will show up two weeks later.”

At a briefing, Kikilias appealed “from the heart to think of our dear ones and of health workers” and to observe health measures and restrictions.

He noted that the highest ratio of new cases per 100,000 people were registered in the following areas last week: Kalymnos island (12), Kozani (19), Kilkis (24), West Attica (30), Evros (48), Thassos island, Rodopi (21), Florina (10), Lesvos island (12) and Xanthi (13). Most of the mainland cities are in northern Greece.

Quoting his German counterpart Jens Spahn as saying that return to normalcy is still far off, Kikilias stressed, “We will have to live under difficult conditions in the next 2 to 3 months,” adding that “even in Germany, where there are multiples of ICUs compared to the average European country, they are running out of Covid-19 dedicated beds.”

The opportunity to be vaccinated in Greece should not serve as an excuse to relax caution and not observing the measures, he warned. “The vaccines are here, and it is the beginning of the end for this massive crisis. But what still remains is that a large segment of the population gets inoculated in the coming months,” the health minister noted.

Vaccination certificate

Everyone who gets vaccinated will be issued with a certificate that will also be accessible online at gov.gr, through the Taxis (tax service) platform. These certificates will list dates and doses.

So far, 1,763 people are the first to be vaccinated in Greece, he said. Of these, 1,695 are medical staff and another 68 are political leaders, national defense leaders, ministers and security chiefs.

Another 40 hospitals will start inoculating people as of January 4, and another 36 hospitals as of January 11. This will mean that over 60,000 health workers are expected to have been vaccinated by January 20.

Nursing homes and welfare facilities will begin vaccinations on January 4 as well, while private clinic and hospital staff will be vaccinated nationally from January 4 to 20, Kikilias said.

A critical juncture

Greece is now at a critical juncture, infectious diseases pathologist Panagiotis Gargalianos said at the briefing.

The president of the Hellenic Society for Infectious Diseases and novel coronavirus committee member at the Health ministry noted that it is very encouraging that vaccines have come out with high effective rates and security. He cautioned the public however to be vigilant, since collective immunity can only become activated when 70 pct of the population is vaccinated.

“The virus does not forgive, it moves at very high speeds,” he warned, adding that “we are not asking for a lot” more than observation of health measures.