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And now, the news from last week.
Greece proves poorly organized as to Covid19 and tourism. Cases are rapidly increasing and the Delta variant spreads.
Obligatory vaccination for certain employees categories became a law of the state. The window was left open for extending it to more categories. Doctors warn: Yes to catholic vaccination, no to obligatory vaccination.
Education Minister’s reforms amidst pandemic prohibit more than 20,000 pupils to be admitted in the University.
On a Greek island, desperately seeking a non-existent quarantine room.
Several regions and islands were placed on higher risk levels as Greece updated its epidemiological map on Thursday. The Municipality of Mykonos remained in a state of high epidemiological observation, according to the authorities, who have from the previous week forbidden music and imposed a night curfew on the island.
On Friday 7 Covid-related deaths were announced, 130 intubated patients and 2,854 new coronavirus cases. Daily Covid19 patients’ hospital admissions increased by 247.3% in July.
While the Covid19 situation is clearly deteriorating in the country and contrary to reassurances from Tourism Minister Theocharris back in May that Greece will set the example internationally for safely opening up to tourism, it also becomes apparent that the government is poorly organized.
Several incidents illustrate the point. Firstly, on 17 July, an 18-year-old Italian who traveled to Mykonos and got infected from coronavirus reported that he couldn’t find a quarantined hotel to isolate. He was desperate. There is only one quarantine hotel on the island - and it was apparently full. He was finally provided shelter in the Health Center of the island and then they found him a bed in a hotel to spend the rest of the time.
Keep in mind, there is no option of being transferred to another island for those sick from coronavirus.
A similar incident was recorded on Paros island. According to reports, six 18-year-olds who tested positive for coronavirus, could not find a Covid19-hotel to isolate and stayed for 16 hours at the open-air parking of the island’s Health Centre! Two of them had fevers. Like on Mykonos, the only Paros Covid19 hotel was full. Finally, after Civil Protection was notified, the young men were transferred to Athens by helicopter.
Another incident happened on Alonissos, where the mother of a family tested positive before boarding a ship to return home, only to find out that there was no quarantine hotel on the island.
After all these, it was reported on 21 July that the Greek government is seeking to increase the number of quarantine hotels on the islands and to establish “Covid-cabins” on ferries to allow the return of travelers tested positive. Now. More than two months since the official opening of tourism.
Theocharis stated on 20 July that tourist arrivals have increased by 40-50%.
Meanwhile, Shipping Minister Plakiotakis said on Friday that a total of 4,500 travelers were not allowed to board ferries last week as they did not have the necessary Covid-documents. “The checks by the Coast Guard officers are complete and are carried out fast and with efficiency,” the Minister stressed.
According to Greece’s National Health Organization EODY president Panagiotis Arkoumaneas, the transmission rate of the Delta variant in Greece is “terrifying.” “We will have an increase in cases this week and next, but we must look at the age [of those infected] and whether they end up in the ICU to be intubated, or if we have deaths,” he stated on Thursday in a TV interview. He noted that 99% of those who end up in a hospital or in intensive care have not been vaccinated. The Delta variant cases were estimated to be 60-61% of the total until recently.
According to Greece’s data, 45% of the population is fully vaccinated and 7.7% have had one dose.
Obligatory vaccination has just become legislated.
The government continues to use a stick and carrot policy to promote vaccination.
Vaccination is from now on obligatory for certain employees categories, according to the amendment passed in Parliament on Thursday with ND and KINAL votes. The amendment provides that until 31/12/2021, employees in the public and private sector should show their employers their vaccination or Covid-19 recovery certificate, while vaccination is henceforth obligatory for employees working in the Health Sector and in Care Homes.
The only exceptions to obligatory vaccination are those who have been sick for coronavirus for a period of six months after recovery and people with specific health conditions.
Should the employees obliged to vaccination not be vaccinated, the employer is entitled to put them on compulsory leave and is not obliged to compensate them for this period. They would be also left without social insurance. The measures are lifted 14 days after a worker is fully vaccinated. If the employer employs non-vaccinated personnel, he/she would be fined 10,000 euros for every such case.
A key provision is that the amendment provided full power to Health Minister to extend obligatory vaccination to other work categories, depending on the course of the pandemic.
SYRIZA, KKE, DiEM25, and Greek Solution voted against the amendment.
Hospital doctors’ unions took the stance “Yes to catholic, no to obligatory vaccination.”
According to Athens-Piraeus Hospital Doctors Union EINAP, 94.3% of hospital doctors are vaccinated (the rest have recovered from Covid19), and more than 80% of the hospital staff (also a high percentage has recovered from Covid19). Thus, they say, the government’s strictness is not justified.
Hellenic Hospital Doctors’ Union (OENGE) accused the government that makes vaccination obligatory without first having made a sufficient information campaign for the care homes employees. “This enhances non-rational approaches, conspiracy theories, a convenient opponent so that the government can hide their own responsibilities.”
They moreover emphasize that vaccinations at home for the bed-ridden people just started the previous week and that 97% of the refugees in the camps have not been vaccinated.
They conclude that the government tried on purpose to defame the people working in the health sector to institutionalize obligatory vaccination.
At the same time, Health Minister Kikilias announced compensation motives for professionals implicated in the vaccination procedure.
So, pharmacists and doctors would be compensated with 10 euros per appointment they would book for citizens.
Private doctors would be compensated with 20 (raised from 3) euros for every vaccination they perform in their professional premises.
Doctors who would vaccinate bed-ridden citizens would be compensated with 50 (raised from 20) euros.
Meanwhile, another anti-vaxxers protest took place in the center of Athens on Wednesday. Some 3,500 people participated. The Greek police detained more than five protesters (later released them) allegedly for throwing bottles and other objects, while they used tear gas and water cannons against them. The incidents are said to have started early evening when the protesters who had gathered at Syntagma Square left the area assigned for the demonstration (probably according to the new anti-protest law).
Small scale incidents took place also outside the Athens University headquarters on Panepistimiou Avenue where anti-authoritarians held a protest over social justice that was not related to the pandemic.
It was reported that at some point, anti-authoritarians attacked anti-vaxxers who were heading to Syntagma Square. One anti-vaxxer was reportedly injured and was taken to hospital with an ambulance.
A country at the brink of breakdown.
“Mrs. Minister, we refuse to become just another brick in the Wall.”
An absurd, highly competitive, and anti-paedagogic exams system has been in place for decades (in variations) through which pupils are evaluated as eligible or not to enter the University - it’s called “Panhellenic Exams.” We wouldn’t want you to be lost, dear reader, in a labyrinth of details. It would suffice just to mention that it’s only one (very short) single exams period on several school curriculum modules that takes place at the end of pupils’ last year in High School. And these exams determine if pupils are eligible for University. Pupils’ stress levels and intensification of effort are more than immense. Furthermore, it’s not the Universities that set the standards for this procedure. The “base” for each School is defined by unpredictable parameters, including pupils’ average performance each year and how popular a university department is.
That said, pupils and parents are now raging against Education Minister Niki Kerameos for recent reforms in the exams system, as an unprecedented number of pupils -more than 20,000- have been left out of the University. And this number includes pupils that excelled.
On the pretext that pupils cannot be admitted to the University with an under the base grade, Kerameos introduced a Minimum Admission Grade (EBE), varying according to Schools.
The result was an utter disaster. The example of one pupil who wrote a letter to the Minister is illustrative. Despite having achieved in all modules a high average grade -higher than the one needed last year to be admitted to the Polytechnical School of Athens- he has been left out because in one module, Freehand Drawing, had 13.6 while the EBE was 14.03.
Keep in mind that this year, due to the pandemic, Freehand Drawing was taught online.
Just to understand the absurdity, as the Hellenic Fine Arts Chamber emphasized in a press release, Kerameos “abolished from the curriculum of all Lyceums of the country in 2020 the modules of Freehand and Line Art, while these modules continue to be part of the Panhellenic Exams.” In other words, pupils had to do private lessons on these. Hence, the Chamber concludes, the Ministry “wilfully and in a premeditated way” left children out of the Universities.
Other pupils that excelled but deviated a bit in one single module from the defined threshold, finally failed.
The Minister replied to the pupil speaking in the Parliament by saying that “He wouldn’t have been admitted [to the Polytechnic School] even last year with 13.6 out of 20. For the first time, the government asked the Universities. This specific School chose a high threshold.”
Speaking in Parliament, main opposition SYRIZA head Alexis Tsipras lashed out against the Minister. Referring to the more than 20,000 pupils not admitted in the Universities, Tsipras said that “this is the greater reduction in the number of those admitted in the universities to take place since the first university, the University of Athens, was founded in 1837!”
“Because you chose the pandemic year, the year when the schools were half of the year closed, the year of financial insecurity due to your failed lockdowns to apply the EBE,” Tsipras added.
Tsipras concluded that these pupils were excluded from Higher Education “so that you can push them to [private] colleges that your ministers even advertise, with no shame. Because there is no Admission Base there. Only an Income Base. Who he/she can pay, is admitted. You are the biggest private interests’ dealers that this country has ever seen.”
SYRIZA Education Sector MP Nikos Filis said that out of 77,000 vacancies in the Universities, only 55,000 will be filled.
The High School Teachers Union OLME in a press release also harshly criticized Kerameos for the EBE system.
An online petition is already circulating demanding Kerameos’ resignation and the abolishment of the EBE system. The petition had collected circa 41,000 signatures until Friday.
A pupil’s father undertook legal action against the Minister, by sending her a non-judicial notice of default.
Just to put things in context, it’s worth reminding just a few facts:
- One of the first decisions after ND was elected in power was to suspend the operation of 38 new university departments in November 2019.
- In December 2020, the government made university degrees of equal professional value with those from private colleges. Keep in mind, that private college are not even private universities - they are considered of much lower educational standards.
- Kerameos announced in May 2021 (and already proceeded with it) that some University departments would merge in order for the educational map of the country to “be rationalized.”
- This June, our PM, presenting the new education policy, informed us that “not everyone can and should go to University.”
We wonder if the latter applies also to his children.
Bucks win NBA championship: Giannis Antetokounmpo completes surreal journey by winning a ring 'the hard way' - The Greek Freak stayed true to himself and the city of Milwaukee and snapped the Bucks' 50-year title drought.
Update: As to last week’s Documento newspaper revelations that the PM and his wife were for four years filing a false asset and funds declaration, after a week’s silence, the PM’s Office issued on Sunday 18 July a harsh press release against the newspaper, SYRIZA and Alexis Tsipras (Documento is considered politically affiliated with SYRIZA). The PM’s Office announced they will bring the issue to Justice. Moreover, they publicized the contract according to which Mrs. Grabowski’s stocks were donated to her half-brother Giorgos Papazisis. According to the PM’s Office, the donation was within the period the law provided for, in August 2016. Thus, according to the press release, “it is clear that there is no issue with the asset and funds declaration.”
Documento immediately replied, insisting on its revelation (they had published a follow-up). According to the newspaper, the contract the PM’s Office publicized is nowhere to be found in the French Business/Commercial Registry. On the contrary, according to the French Business Registry -they claim- it is clear that of December 2020, the PM’s wife was still owning 95% of the French company SCI Personal Ventures stocks and that it was on that day she transferred the stocks to her brother’s company MGPG Investment Consulting.
The PM’s wife responded by filing a nonjudicial notice of default against Documento on Thursday.
Yet, another femicide in Greece. Forensic Report: Victim “was beaten, dragged on the rocks and thrown off the cliff.”
Death in Paradise: How 64 care home residents died in Crete.
The wind farm has no place on Pindos.
Greek traditional wooden boat builders a dwindling craft.
Covid-requirements to access Greece’s indoor venues for non-EU citizens.
UNESCO criticizes Ankara about conversion of Hagia Sophia, Chora Monastery.
Egypt finds ancient military vessels, Greek graves in a sunken city.
Tolis Voskopoulos, a legend of Greece’s pop-folk music scene, died in Athens Monday, at the age of 80.
The Shameful Camp - People and Power by Al Jazeera English: At its closest point, the Greek island of Samos lies barely two kilometers off the coast of Turkey, which has long made it a target destination for refugees and migrants seeking to enter Europe. Those who make it across the Aegean Sea are housed in and around a camp close to the capital Vathy. Some have been there for years, waiting for their paperwork to be processed through the tortuously slow Greek bureaucracy. Living conditions are atrocious. In the official camp, people sleep in dangerously overcrowded re-purposed shipping containers. But most are forced to set up tents or build a makeshift shelter in the unofficial "jungle", which surrounds the original compound on an exposed hillside. A new center is under construction, on a mountaintop 10km (6 miles) away, and there is hope that conditions there might be better, but that is little consolation for those still living in squalor. In late 2020, a team of filmmakers went to meet some of the people desperately hoping their ordeal will end.
Athens Open-Air Film Festival in Elefsina - July 23-26.
Classic Films & More in Riviera Cinema, Athens, July 22-28.
Rigos Choreographs Hadjidakis, Athens July 27 & 29.
Dance Days Festival in Chania, Crete - Until 1 August.
Chios island Music Festival - 1 to 13 August.
And don’t forget!
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