Thousands of people demonstrated on Wednesday in Athens and other Greek cities against plans to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all health workers, with police using tear gas and water cannon to disperse some protesters.

On the eve of a parliamentary vote on a government decree, protesters held up posters saying "No to mandatory vaccinations" and "Freedom", along with Orthodox crosses and Greek flags, AFP photographers and cameramen reported.

Police said 3,000 people demonstrated in Athens. AFP journalists reported that officers fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse around 120 masked people who were throwing projectiles. 

Police said another 2,000 people demonstrated in Thessaloniki, Greece's second-largest city.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said last week that all people working in retirement homes must be vaccinated by August 16, or they will be put on sick leave.

Vaccination for health workers in both the public and private sectors will become mandatory from September 1.

Faced with the spread of the Delta variant, the government wants to get as many people as possible vaccinated.  

In a population of 10.7 million people, more than 4.6 million have now been fully vaccinated.

But the spread of the Delta variant is raising concerns. In only two weeks, the number of cases has increased from 800 to 3,000 per day.

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