Greece offers two free self-tests to all citizens over the Christmas and New Year holidays and abandons the idea of a “Rapid test for vaccinated in restaurants and closed entertainment facilities.”
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced on Tuesday, that citizens with social security number (AMKA) will be eligible to two self-tests free of charge over the festive season. Furthermore, he said that there will be no additional safety measures or restrictions against Covid-19 over the holidays.
The self-tests are available at the pharmacy and vaccinated or unvaccinated citizens are encouraged to carry them out before and after social gatherings at Christmas and New Year.
The free testing kits are expected to be distributed in the next few days.
“It is true that I was advised to introduce mandatory rapid tests for everybody for admission to all leisure and entertainment venues. I rejected the proposal because I thought the measure would be unfair to the vaccinated and ultimately too difficult to implement,” PM Mitsotakis said during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
“We address the citizens today with a two-phase plan. 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. And certainly at this time, our weapons are the tests. Everyone, whether vaccinated or not, should do a self test,” the PM said.
Regarding the second phase, he said this will concern the first weeks of 2022 and restirctions could be remote working, shorter operation times for restaurants, bars and entertainment.
“Depending on how the pandemic unfolds, we have a range of options at our disposal, such as extending remote working, adjusting the opening hours for restaurants and entertainment. We are, however, against a suspension of the operation of schools. But everything, I emphasize, will be decided by the data at the time. No decision has been made yet,” Mitsotakis added.
He urged citizens to take the initiative of testing themselves before every gathering as an additional precaution, regardless of their vaccination status.
The Political Cost of Rapid Test
Leaks to the press on Monday and ministers were speaking of “mandatory Rapid tests in enclosed restaurants, bars and entertainment facilities for everyone over 5 years old” before New Year’s Eve celebrations, possible also in Christmas Eve.The country’s top epidemiologist Sotiris Tsiodras said “those with booster shot should be exempted”, while Health Minister Thanos Plevris, like a tiny dictator from other times, openly warned “those violating the Christmas measures will bitterly regret it.”
This triggered an outrage on social media as only vaccinated citizens and Covid-recovered are allowed in such facilities anyway.
Leaks claimed also that this was recommended by the Epidemiologists’ Committee.
Tuesday morning, two of the Committee members, professor Alkiviadis Vatopoulos and President of Greek Doctors’ Association Athanasios Exadaktylos told media that they had never made such a recommendation. The latter added also that the Committee hadn’t met in the last 15 days.
It is obvious that the PM took into consideration the “political cost” of a Rapid test paid by those he had promised “vaccination will help take our lives back” and decided free self-test for all and thus as recommendation only.
Note that the government offered some 6 million free self-tests beginning of the month, but citizens interest was below 70 percent.