PARIS, France – Greece will lift some pandemic restrictions in regions where coronavirus cases have been the highest, its health minister said, starting on Saturday.
The move, initially implemented for two weeks, is part of a drive to grant greater freedoms to people who are fully vaccinated against the virus and to encourage a large unvaccinated population to get shots.
‘Red areas’ across much of northern Greece and some parts of central Greece implemented restrictions last month including a nighttime curfew from 1 a..m. to 6 a.m. and a ban on music in bars and restaurants, in attempt to quell a fourth wave of the virus.
Under the relaxed rules, as well as being able to play music, restaurants and entertainment venues will be allowed to host standing customers, the health minister, Thanasis Plevris, said at a news conference on Wednesday.
They will be opened only to people who can show proof of vaccination or of recent recovery from Covid infections, however. Unvaccinated people will remain barred, in line with restrictions introduced last month that are scheduled to remain in place through March.
Those measures bar unvaccinated people from indoor venues, including cafes and restaurants, and oblige unvaccinated workers to undergo regular coronavirus tests at their own expense.
Mr. Plevris said the relaxation of the rules starting this weekend was not an effort to punish unvaccinated people.
‘The philosophy is not that some people are being favored over others’, he said. ‘The measures for the unvaccinated are adequate. Those who are vaccinated can have greater freedoms’.
Vaccine hesitancy is relatively strong in Greece, where 57 percent of the population of nearly 11 million has been fully vaccinated, compared with about 63 percent in the wider European Union, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.