About the pandemic
The epidemiological data both in the rest of Europe and in our country force us to be on the highest possible alert and no relaxation is allowed right now. Following a proposal by the Committee of Experts, the extension of the measures set in effect in the last days of 2021 for another week, until January 23, has been decided.
Our government has been closely monitoring the international and domestic data and has been doing what is required in terms of health security and ensuring socio-economic life.
Regarding the vaccination of all citizens over 60
To remind also that the vaccination of all the citizens over 60 is mandatory until January 16, 2022. They should also complete their vaccination in the scheduled time. This decision – as it is already known – has been taken for many specific reasons. Because 9 out of 10 deaths due to Covid-19 affect people of this age group, 7 out of 10 intubated people are over 60 and 8 out of 10 intubated people are unvaccinated.
This decision primarily concerns the protection of their own lives, their own health. There is no obligation, however, without consequences for those who ignore it. There is no optional obligation. Due to that, from January 16 onwards, the sanctions provided by law will be applied and an administrative fine of 100 euros will be imposed every month as long as our fellow citizens over 60 remain unvaccinated.
The government has offered multiple opportunities to our fellow citizens to be vaccinated and has pursued all means available to facilitate and persuade. There is no more tolerance. Even now we hope that those who did not do so, will decide to protect their own health as it will be a choice of life and social responsibility.
Regarding the resuming of schools
Main priority of the government is the full and safe operation of education, which is a foundation for the advancement of the new generation.
Despite the reactions of the Opposition, following the Christmas holidays schools resumed and continued normally its operation. Just to single out that until today only 2 out of 80,000 classes had closed due to the fact that more than 50 + 1 of the students had been affected by Covid-19. Our recent September experience is our weapon. We are better prepared and, as it turned out, we have been able to do it.
The implementation of such a project requires a well thought-out plan, extensive preparation, and cooperation among the Ministry of Education, the Health Ministry and the local authorities. It has been characteristic that in the first two days, 1.6 million students and teachers had been tested and more than 25,000 cases had been detected. The tests prevented the further viral dispersal in the education sector and society at large.
Meanwhile, the government has already prepared a plan to meet increased needs arising from absences of teachers associated with the coronavirus pandemic. This plan contained several pillars:
First of all, the redeployment of the staff within the school units, based on the plan prepared by the Directorates themselves.
Secondly, 4,784 substitute teachers will be hired, 3,576 on three-month contracts and 1,208 staff on contracts running to the end of the academic year. The process of hiring 1,208 substitute teachers has already started following the announcement of the Minister of Education and Religions Niki Kerameos, on Monday. The Minister signed also a decision yesterday for the recruitment of an additional 566 temporary substitute teachers on three months contracts and the rest will follow. Within the next few days all available teachers will have been utilized in order to fill in the gaps associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thirdly the advantage of distance learning, using CISCO Webex platform, as all 154,000 licenses for teachers will be valid until July, 2023.
It is the duty of the whole political world to support this effort. It is the duty of the wider society to support lifelong learning and we will continue to do what we are able to every day in order to continue under these terms and conditions the lifelong learning function in schools.
Regarding the job creation
The main economic and above all social goal of the government is to stimulate employment and consequently social cohesion. After all, for us, growth is a means of promoting the well-being of the people, it is not an end in itself. That is why the government has taken a series of actions such as the “First Seal”, the program of 100,000 new jobs that expands with the addition of 50,000 new jobs, as well as the extension of the reduction of insurance contributions for employees.
At the same time, 11 new programs of OAED (Manpower Employment Organisation) are being implemented and 7 actions are being continued through which 86,000 new jobs will be offered in the new year. For this purpose, about 590 million euros will be absorbed from the resources of the Recovery Fund and the NSRF.
These policies are the best proof of the progressive sign of the government’s policy in terms of employment and the fight against social inequalities, as prime minister stressed during yesterday’s presentation of the programs at OAED’s headquarters. The opportunities offered to the weakest are our non-negotiable priority. Despite the difficulties in the international environment, the support provided is continuous and substantial and in this direction we will continue.
Regarding the security and protection of academic freedom in the universities
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that our government’s will for the security of the university premises and the protection of the academic freedom in the universities is non-negotiable. It is a basic pre-election commitment of New Democracy and it is our decision to proceed without discounts and without calculating any political costs in this direction. The cooperation of the Rector’s Authorities with the State is necessary and we expect that the positive examples we have seen lately from the Rector’s Authorities will continue.
Our universities should and will make the leap of progress imposed by the international situation, imposed by the way, the style and the level of education that we should offer to the new generation. They should move forward and leave behind some ideologies of specific minorities. The vast majority of society and the educational community have changed their example over time. The country as a whole has been changing this course of action and on the higher level of education no one can hinder it.
In this context, the four-month training of some 400 people who have been hired through ASEP to staff the University Institutions Protection Teams starts in Komotini, on Monday. Their training is a very critical process, since both the appropriate business skills and full empathy of the space in which they will operate are required. Following the completion of the very special training , they will join the universities. This is the first time that there is a comprehensive plan to tackle violence in the universities. The Government will proceed with its completion. No discounts, delays and concessions.
However, at the same time, we sadly have the experience from time to time people causing serious troubles in specific university Institutions and I repeat that there will not be the slightest tolerance. Such occasions are not the rule and in no case they can characterize the operation of the Institutions of Higher Education as a whole. It should be also noted that they are less than what happened in the past. That happens because we have taken care to form an institutional framework that allows the institutions of the State to perform their role, enforce the laws and the order ensuring academic freedom regularity in Higher Education Institutions.
Source: Public Diplomacy Office in New York, Permanent Mission of Greece to the UN & Consulate General of Greece in NY