Healthcare workers opposing mandatory coronavirus vaccinations and the suspension from work for those who refuse to get the shots, chant slogans during a protest outside the Greek Parliament , in central Athens, on Wednesday, Nov 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Hundreds of Greek health care workers protested in central Athens against mandatory coronavirus vaccines for their profession Wednesday, a day after the government imposed more restrictions on unvaccinated Greeks amid a spike in infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
About 300 demonstrators chanted slogans and held up banners outside the parliament building, protesting regulations that call for unvaccinated health care workers to be suspended from their jobs.
Health care unions have said they do not oppose the vaccines but object to them being required. Vaccines against the coronavirus are compulsory for workers in Greece’s health care sector and those working in care homes for the elderly.
On Tuesday, Greece reported a record 6,700 new daily COVID-19 cases and 59 deaths, bringing the total in the country of around 11 million to over 750,000 infections and more than 16,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Intensive care units for COVID-19 patients are at over 28% capacity, while regular coronavirus wards in hospitals are nearly half full, officials said.
Health Minister Thanos Plevris said Tuesday that tougher restrictions would be imposed as of Saturday for all unvaccinated people in Greece.
Anyone without a certificate of vaccination or recent recovery from COVID-19 will need to display a negative PCR or rapid test, conducted at their own cost at a private facility, for access to a wide range of facilities, including banks, public services, shops, hair salons and entertainment venues.
Public and private sector employees will also have to take two tests per week, up from the current one, to enter their workplaces.
Around 61% of Greece’s total population has been fully vaccinated, and people age 12 and over are eligible for shots. Booster shots are available for those over 50, and will be available starting Friday to all adults who received their last vaccine dose six months earlier.