From next week, unvaccinated people will be largely blocked from indoor spaces even if they test negative for COVID-19.
Greece has become the newest country in the European Union to impose more restrictions on those unvaccinated against COVID-19 after an increase in infections in recent weeks.
In a televised address to the nation, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said from Monday, unvaccinated people will be largely barred from indoor spaces, including restaurants, cinemas, museums and gyms, even if they are negative for COVID-19.
Greece has so far fully vaccinated about 62 percent of its population of about 11 million people. Authorities had expected a rate of about 70 percent before the European winter kicks off at the end of the year.
“This is indeed a pandemic of unvaccinated,” Mitsotakis said. “Greece is mourning unnecessary losses because it simply does not have the vaccinations of other European countries.”
Under the new rules in Greece, vaccine certificates for those over 60 will be valid for seven months after they are issued, to encourage them to receive a third, “accelerating” shot.
Devotees attending church will be allowed to enter with a negative test, Mitsotakis said.
In a subsequent statement, Alexis Tsipras, leader of the main opposition party Syriza, accused Mitsotakis of “responsibility” for the “unprecedented tragedy” that saw the number of deaths related to coronavirus from Greece exceed 17,000.
The country reported 7,317 new infections and 63 deaths on Thursday. This has brought total infections since the start of the pandemic to 861,117 and the total number of deaths to 17,075.
Earlier in November, the government imposed a number of restrictions on unvaccinated citizens but allowed them access to most services, provided they tested negative.
Austria, Germany, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have all restricted public life for the unvaccinated this week as infections increase across Europe.
The Greek prime minister has said he will propose to make this an EU-wide standard to the European Commission.
Those who are still hesitant to get vaccinated would “think differently if they heard what the unvaccinated patients experienced in intensive care units,” Mitsotakis said.
The number of new daily infections has reached record highs in Greece this month, pressuring an already struggling healthcare system and forcing the government to order private sector doctors in five regions in northern Greece to help public hospitals.
The requisition order, published on Thursday in the official government newspaper, is valid for a month.