Greece tells people over-60 to get their Covid vaccination or face monthly €100 fine
Protesters have taken to the streets of Greece to voice their anger at stricter Covid vaccine rules, ITV News Europe Editor James Mates reports.
Greece is running out of patience with those who are unvaccinated against Covid-19, but they are not going quietly.
The country has made it mandatory for the over-60s to be vaccinated or face a fine of €100 (£80) per month until they are.
Medical professionals who are unjabbed have been suspended and face the prospect of being sacked if they fail to comply with rules which say they require vaccination.
Protests have been held against the latest government rulings but there is little sympathy in the country for those holding out, who claim its leaders are exaggerating the impact of the pandemic.
Listen to our coronavirus podcast:
"We are only doing it as they are putting a knife to our throats," one woman told ITV News after receiving her first jab. "This is blackmail."
Vaccination centres are full of the trepidatious and those in for boosters but a minority, including some medical professionals, are holding out which could result in the government widening the scope of mandatory jabs.
“It is necessary for all adults to get vaccinated and, of course, if the government decides to do it mandatory, we support it," the head of the Greek Medical Association told ITV News.
Some are committed to holding out regardless of the consequences, financially or morally but their time is running out.
ITV News Europe Editor James Mates on why the rules in Greece signal a hardening stance across Europe on the unvaccinated:
On Sunday the efforts of European Governments to get their populations vaccinated cross another important threshold as Greece become the first to impose mandatory vaccinations against Covid 19.
They are not actually compulsory, but if you are over 60 and unjabbed you will have to pay a fine of €100 a month, every month. In a country where the average pension is around €700 a month, that is a significant sum.
It is already having its effect - 200,000 of the estimated 600,000 unvaccinated elderly in Greece have turned up for their first dose since the new policy was announced. Several told us there were doing it unwillingly, but jabbed they have been.
The age limit is very likely to be reduced soon to the over 50s, and maybe before long to the over 40s. That is certainly the wish of the Greek Medical Association who believe the unvaccinated are having a disproportionate impact on the health service. Around 80% of those in hospital and intubated are unvaccinated.
To those on the Greek equivalent of the UK’s Sage advisory committee, the new rules are akin to the punitive taxes levied on smoking. People, they say, have the right to continue refusing to have the jabs, but they must contribute to the costs they and others like them have imposed on the health service.
Opposition, as you might expect, is robust and vociferous. Greece, like several other Balkan countries, has proved resistant to the lures of vaccines, much of the opposition driven by fringe groups around the Orthodox church. This may be why so many elderly have stayed away.
Unjabbed health workers have been suspended from their jobs since last September, and in March are expected to be dismissed altogether if they continue to hold out. Many have been in the streets of Athens in recent days making a lot of noise, but changing few minds in the corridors of power.
One renegade doctor is trying to set up his own political party, but with Omicorn rates rising, and many Greeks keen to get hteir boosters as soon as possible, support has been muted.
Greece may be the first but definitely won’t be the last. Austria and Italy will both, by the end of February, have similar rules in place, and others are watching