ATHENS

The number of COVID-19 cases in Greece has increased tenfold in the last one month, prompting the government to adopt tougher penalties, including the suspension of employees who do not comply with new regulations.

In addition to a slew of other efforts to prevent the spread of the virus, the government has mandated vaccination for those working in nursing homes for the elderly and people with special needs, as well as in the public and private health care systems.

While various steps, including the mandatory immunization of health workers by August 16, at least a single shot, one of the new decisions that will be taken is the suspension of some employees who refuse to be vaccinated.

On July 12, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced that all health care workers in the country must be immunized and those who refuse vaccinations will be suspended, while hospitals that violate the regulation will be fined €50,000 (about $59,000).

On June 13, when the number of daily cases in the country was at its lowest, only 297 people tested positive. However, this figure climbed to 605 on June 29, and 1,797 people tested positive on July 6. The number of cases increased to 2,065 on July 12 and 3,109 on July 13, according to the country’s Health Ministry data.

The significant increase in COVID cases is linked to the tourism season, forcing authorities to implement stricter regulations, particularly regarding the vaccine program.

From July 16 onwards, only vaccinated people will be permitted to enter closed places such as theaters, gyms, and entertainment venues. Restaurants, cafes, and bars will not allow those who have not been vaccinated.

At a press conference, Development and Investments Minister Spyridon-Adonis Georgiadis said on Tuesday that it was important not to give the impression that the government had lost control of the pandemic so that the tourism sector could continue to function normally.

With a population of 11 million, 444,783 cases, and 12,806 COVID-19 deaths have been recorded since the beginning of the pandemic in Greece.

According to the ministry, 41% of the people in the country have completed the vaccination process.

Tourists arriving in the country must be vaccinated or declare that the PCR test result of 72-hour before arrival is negative. Random rapid diagnostic testing is also applied to visitors at the border points of the country.

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