Riot police stand guard near a fire as people protest the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination during Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ annual speech on the state of the country’s economy on September 11, 2021, in Thessaloniki, Greece . REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis
September 11, 2021
ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek police used tear gas and water cannons on Saturday to break up a demonstration of thousands of people protesting against mandatory coronavirus vaccination.
Officials said protesters opened fire on police in Greece’s second largest city, Thessaloniki, who prevented them from trying to reach the area where Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was to deliver his annual economic speech.
The annual speech typically draws crowds of demonstrators, and police estimate that more than 15,000 people, including labor unions, took part in demonstrations on issues ranging from economic policy to COVID-19 vaccines.
Protests against COVID-19 vaccination began in July after the government announced mandatory vaccination of health care workers and nursing home workers. Officials have suggested that vaccines may also be mandatory for other groups, such as teachers.
“Yes, for vaccines, but not necessarily,” POEDYN, the federation of public hospital workers, said in a statement.
Greece has suspended nearly 6,000 frontline health care workers from their jobs as a September 1 deadline to receive at least one vaccine shot is missing. Earlier this month, it gave unvaccinated health workers a second chance to get a shot and those who have been suspended have been allowed to return to work.
POEDYN is concerned that a total of 10,000 unvaccinated employees could be suspended, disrupting operations at understaffed hospitals at a time when infections remain high.
Protests against compulsory vaccination also took place in Istanbul on Saturday, where more than 2,000 Turks protested the government’s new vaccination campaign.
According to the latest official figures, about 5.7 million Greeks, or 55% of the population, have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 59% have received a single dose.
On Saturday, 2,197 new infections were confirmed in the country and 39 people died.
(Reporting by Alexandros Avramidis; Writing by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Christina Fincher)