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Islands to lead Greek vaccine drive

Entire Greek islands are to be vaccinated in a bid to save the summer season (photo courtesy Unsplash/Nikos Zacharoulis).

Greece is to vaccinate entire island populations in a bid to reopen to summer tourism, according to reports in the British media.

Around 40 Greek islands have been prioritised for inoculation in the hope that tourists, particularly those from Britain, will start booking for the summer months.

The islands of the Aegean and Ionian seas have populations of fewer than 1,000 people, which makes mass vaccination relatively straightforward. And once the smaller islands have been vaccinated, the vaccine roll-out will move on to larger holiday destinations, such as Mykonos, Santorini and Corfu.

“It is a priority to vaccinate the tourist islands,” Harry Theoharis, Greek tourism minister told Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper. “We want to vaccinate people working in the tourism sector, from hotel staff and waiters to tourist guides and drivers.”

The Seychelles, another island nation, has adopted a similar approach and announced last week that it should hit herd immunity, with 70% of its population fully vaccinated, by the middle of March.

However, the speed at which Greece will be able to inoculate its islands depends on vaccine supply, which to date has been patchy inside the European Union. So far, the country has administered one million doses. However, prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said this week that he believed Greece was “at the beginning of the end of the pandemic”.

The tiny island of Kastellorizo told the Daily Telegraph that its entire population was on course to be vaccinated by mid-March. The remote island has had just one case of Covid-19. Meanwhile, the island of Amorgos, in the Cyclades, claims it has had no Covid cases at all.

Following months of lockdown, the Greek islands are now understandably chomping at the bit to reopen in time for the lucrative summer season.

However, Greece as a whole is currently recording increasing infection numbers.

“We do have resurgent numbers but there are not as many deaths because the vaccine is starting to bite,” said Theoharis.


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