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Coronavirus

Thousands protest in Athens over COVID vaccine rule for health workers

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Around 7,000 people protested in central Athens on Sunday against a new rule obliging healthworkers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, police said.

The rule change, which came into effect on Wednesday requires all personnel working in hospitals to get vaccinated.

The demonstrators waved Greek flags and brandished placards with such messages as “We are not against vaccines, but against fascism” and “Long live democracy.”

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“It’s amazing that I’m put on sick leave because I refuse to be vaccinated when for months I have helped to contain the epidemic, I have worked in very difficult conditions,” said Christos Bakakios, an ambulance driver who joined the protest.

A nurse, who gave her name as Lina, said “the Greek health system will collapse if they put all the caregivers who refuse to be vaccinated on furlough.”

“The hospitals are already overcrowded. That would make no sense,” she added.

Greece’s government on Tuesday announced an array of new restrictions and the end, next month, of free testing for those who remain unjabbed against COVID-19 in an effort to boost vaccination rates.

The government took the measures in part to encourage people to get vaccinated, as the contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 takes hold.

At the moment 99 percent of the badly ill coronavirus patients, those intubated in hospital, are people who have not been vaccinated.

Retirement home workers have been obliged to get vaccinated since mid-August.

Ten employees at a home in Volos, in the center of the country, were recently suspended from work.

More than 5.7 million of Greece’s 10.7 million inhabitants have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus.

But the spread of the Delta variant continues to cause concern.

On Sunday Greece registered around 1,500 new COVID cases.

Over 13,600 people have died of the disease in the country since the pandemic began.

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