If everything goes according to plan and deliveries for the second quarter are made on time, vaccinations of healthy people in their 40s against Covid-19 are expected to begin in June, Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias announced in an interview with journalist Michalis Kefalogiannis and the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) published on Sunday.
He also again appealed to older people who have not yet been vaccinated to do so as soon as possible, adding that the government will re-examine the issue of mandatory immunisation from the autumn.
“As regards our healthcare personnel, 80 percent of our doctors have been vaccinated against the coronavirus. The percentage among nurses is lower but I believe it will rise further. In the autumn, at a neutral time, we will re-examine from scratch the issue of mandatory vaccination,” he said, adding that the government hopes the pandemic will subside significantly in May.
Replying to a question on when the pandemic is expected to start subsiding, he said that this could not be predicted precisely, while noting that the degree of immunity in the general population has risen significantly during the third wave of the pandemic, from roughly 10 pct at the end of 2020, due to greater exposure to the virus.
“The combination of this immunity with vaccination and the other factors that were also stressed by [epidemiology] Professor Sotiris Tsiodras, such as improved weather and compliance with the measures, will lead to a gradual improvement of the situation,” the minister said.
Asked whether self-tests might be employed as a prevention measure in order to allow travel over the Easter holidays, Kikilias declined to answer, saying that this was an issue that falls under the purview of the epidemiological experts’ committee.
“What will happen at Easter has not yet been discussed by the Committee. When the time comes, it will examine the facts and make its recommendation accordingly. I have deliberately chosen in the last year not to encroach on its territory,” he said.
Commenting on the pressure that the pandemic has put on the national health system, Kikilias underlined that this was holding up in the face of the worst pandemic that the world has seen, adding that the government will do everything humanly possible to ensure that it continues to hold up and that every person will have access to the healthcare they need for every ailment, not just for Covid-19.
He noted that the country currently has 1,513 ICU beds in operation, of which 927 are for Covid-19 patients and 586 for non-Covid patients.
Kikilias also warned that the reopening of economic activity will only be successful if there is strict adherence to the protection and self-protection measures against the spread of the virus.
“Correct use of masks, distancing and antiseptics. Now is the time to be more careful than ever,” he underlined.
On the criticism levelled against the government by opposition parties over its management of the health crisis, he said the effort being made in Greece was recognised both by the public in Greece and on an international level, and this could not negated by a sterile and unconstructive opposition.
Asked whether the government had done “everything as it should be done,” the health minister pointed out that “the only people that don’t make mistakes are those who do absolutely nothing.”
“After the fact, naturally we identify things that could have been done better. However, we are still in the heat of the battle against an invisible common enemy,” he said. On whether he would accept the challenge of serving the health sector again in the future, Kikilias replied that “the bonds I have made with the people in healthcare are unbreakable and will accompany me throughout my life. We worry over every admission, we celebrate every discharge, we mourn every loss, all of us together.”