ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece’s economy would not close again because of the coronavirus pandemic if it was just to protect an unvaccinated minority, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a newspaper interview released on Sunday.
Greece has fared well in the first wave of the COVID-19 last year. But a resurgence in COVID-19 infections has forced the country to impose lockdown restrictions since November which have cost many billions of euros to an economy slowly emerging from a decade-long crisis.
Greece has been easing restrictions as infections fall, but concerns are rising about the spread of the more contagious Delta variant.
With about 35% of its 11 million population fully inoculated, the government last week offered young people cash and phone data to boost vaccination rates.
“When we imposed across-the-board measures, there were no vaccines,” Mitsotakis told Kathimerini newspaper. “We do have vaccines now.”
Mitsotakis said he can’t make vaccinations mandatory. “But everyone assumes his responsibility. The country will not close again for the protection of a few unvaccinated.”
Mitsotakis said that he hoped that relations between Greece and Turkey will be better this summer than last summer when the two historic rivals came close to armed conflict.
The two NATO allies, at odds over competing territorial claims in the eastern Mediterranean to migrant boats and the status of Cyprus, have been trying to lower tensions since.
“I am more certain that the summer of 2021 will be calmer than the summer of 2020,” Mitsotakis said.
However, we have not solved our differences all of a sudden and there will be consequences for Turkey if it opted to fuel tensions, he added.
(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)