Greece is scheduled to receive 429,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine by the end of January and 25 million vaccine doses in total until June, once the vaccines developed by other firms are approved by European Union agencies, government spokesperson Stelios Petsas said in an interview with SKAI radio on Tuesday.
He once again underlined that mass inoculation was the only way to build a wall of immunity and “get back control of our lives”, putting an end to the global crisis caused by the pandemic in 2020.
Questioned about the priority vaccination of ministers and state officials, Petsas said this was both for symbolic reasons, with respect to the pinnacle of state and government leadership, and for a selection of government officials considered important for the continuity of the state.
He said that criticism of this “stooped to populism” when it concerned officials such as the health minister, who was required to visit hospitals, or members of the government in close contact with the prime minister, while noting that this group of state officials was “less than 1 percent of the total population”.
Petsas was dismissive of opposition criticism regarding the number of vaccines reaching Greece, pointing out that this was controlled by the pharmaceutical firms and EU agencies, which in this case had only approved the vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech.
“The deal remains the same, all EU member-states receive vaccines on the basis of their population,” he added, suggesting that there was nothing that main opposition SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance and its leader Alexis Tsipras could have done differently.
He predicted that the number of doses arriving will start to constantly increase after February, once the vaccines made by Moderna and other firms are approved.
Petsas said there were two important milestones for operation “Eleftheria”, the Greek vaccination campaign: the first was to ensure that the vaccination supply system is working properly in January and the second was to constantly increase the doses and rate of vaccinations in order to achieve the original target of inoculating the whole of the population by the end of June, if they so desire.
Regarding the vaccination plan, he said that this would be updated according to the number of vaccines that are available, with priority to healthcare personnel and vulnerable groups, the very elderly and then to ever younger age groups, depending on availability. Regarding the vaccination certificate, Petsas said that this will be given when the second dose is administered and will be in English, so that it can be used everywhere.
Regarding the lifting of lockdown measures, Petsas said the government’s priority was to reopen schools, with a discussion being launched on Tuesday between the experts and Education Minister Niki Kerameus on how this should be done.
He was hesitant concerning other economic and social activities, however, and said that a clearer picture will emerge from the epidemiological data at the start of next week.
“We appear to have a reduction of the viral load nationwide, which has been steady in recent weeks, and the pressure on ordinary Covid-19 beds has greatly lessened but we are not seeing the same in ICUs and those on ventilators, and this is something that worries us all. We want to see why this is happening, for the experts to assess it and make their recommendations at the start of next week,” he explained.
Regarding the economic support measures for the pandemic, the spokesperson repeated that these will continue in 2021 and for as long as there are restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19, with 7.5 billion euros set aside for this purpose in the budget.
“It is important to preserve confidence both at home and abroad. We have the confidence of the markets and investors and
expect that 2021 will be a year of growth. It is my personal belief that this growth will resemble that of the post-war years, provided we deal successfully with the healthcare aspect. And I place emphasis on the investors that have chosen to invest their money in Greece in the midst of a crisis, such as VW, Microsoft and Pfizer,” he said.
Talking about relations with Turkey, Petsas categorically ruled out all possibility of renegotiating the Lausanne Treaty and stressed that the only issue on which there could be exploratory talks was that of delineating maritime zones, which was the sole outstanding issue between the two countries.
“We hope that Turkey will stop its provocative actions and statements and that we can pick up the exploratory contacts where they left off in 2016,” Petsas said, noting that Greece was ready to resolve this issue.
Statement in response to main opposition leader
In a statement issued in response to the main opposition leader’s criticism of the early vaccination of ministers, Petsas said “it would be laughable if it wasn’t about protecting public health and human lives”.
“The vaccination is a great national endeavour that has not room for minor political pettiness. Greece will get the doses corresponding to its population, like all the other countries of the EU.”
The 429,000 doses arriving by the end of January will allow approximately 215,000 people in Greece to be vaccinated, “among them 126 persons on the front line, who are absolutely crucial for the functioning of the government and the continuity of the state. This bothers Mr. Tsipras, because he is investing in disaster,” Petsas said.
He also clarified that the government had at no time claimed that two million vaccines would arrive in December, only that the system set up would be capable of vaccinating two million people a month.