Greece makes islands vaccination priority as tourist season nears

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Greece, which will open its tourist season on May 15, is prioritizing the COVID-19 vaccination of residents of its islands, authorities said on Thursday.

The country has hundreds of inhabited islands and is eager to draw visitors back after its worst year in decades in 2020. The industry accounts for a fifth of the economy and one in five jobs.

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It is vaccinating island residents at a quicker pace than mainland Greece also because of operational reasons, such as transporting and storing the vaccines. Most will have been vaccinated by the end of May, officials said.

“Our islands are a great priority for us, and a great responsibility,” Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said during a visit to the Cycladic island of Irakleia, which has fewer than 100 residents.

“We urge everyone to get vaccinated, especially the elderly, the vulnerable groups, but also younger ones,” he said.

Kikilias said Greece is expected to receive 2 million-2.5 million vaccines in May and additional 3.5 million-4 million in June.

Marios Themistokleous, secretary-general in charge of vaccinations, said Greece would complete the inoculation of islands with fewer than 1,000 residents in the next few days.

“We will continue to the other islands, so that within the next month we will have covered the majority of our islands’ inhabitants,” he said.

Health authorities on Wednesday reported 3,015 daily cases of COVID-19 and 86 deaths. Total cases and deaths have reached 323,644 and 9,713 respectively.

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