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Universal testing considered for New Year’s revellers

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A “safety” plan will be implemented for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays to limit the spread of the coronavirus and ensure that restrictive measures are followed.

 

The government is considering, among other things, screening the entire population through Covid-19 testing and increased monitoring to strictly enforce compliance with measures. It may announce its plans Tuesday.

According to government sources, rapid test will be mandatory for the vaccinated or those who have a disease certificate in order to enter indoor venues, especially for New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Earlier Monday, Minister of Health Thanos Plevris had told Skai TV station that “what we are considering is that at some point we would like to test the entire population (so that) we can have an overall epidemiological picture of the country, the vaccinated and the unvaccinated alike. That’s our concern: when decisions must be made they will be made.”

 

“We will celebrate both Christmas and New Year’s, there are no thoughts of imposing (lockdown-like) restrictions,” he added.

As for the Omicron mutation, he said that at present, in Greece, it does not have the dynamic profile it presents in the rest of the world. However, he said he believed the mutation will have an intense presence in January. That’s why, he said, emergency plans are being considered.

“We now have a de-escalation of the 4th wave (of the pandemic), waiting for the arrival of the 5th wave that will be due to Omicron. “We are worried about a possible rapid infection rate,” Plevris said.

He also announced sweeping controls in retail during the holiday season, adding that, in order to strengthen the public health system, collaborations the private health sector will be announced starting this week.

 

Citizen Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos told SKAI TV that 10,000 police officers will be patrolling the streets to monitor compliance with social distancing rules.

Government spokesman Yiannis Oikonomou said that “if such a measure (universal screening) needs to be imposed, the cost of the test to enter specific places will be borne by the citizens.”

The government’s immediate priority is to delay, to the extent that is feasible, the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Officials say that every day that passes without the variant spreading is a gain, since thousands of people are getting a first dose of vaccine or a booster shot. Delaying the spread of Omicron was also behind the decision to require arrivals from abroad during the holiday season to take either a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, administered up to 72 hours before arrival, or a rapid antigen test, taken in the previous 24 hours.

This is still very much a delaying tactic. It is taken for granted that the Omicron variant will be well-established in Greece in the first half of January and, talk of its supposed mildness notwithstanding, authorities expect that hospitalizations will rise from mid-January onwards. So, authorities want to lighten the current load on the public health system before the new, fifth wave of the pandemic overloads it again.