Greece steps up efforts to reopen tourist industry

By / China Daily / Updated: 11:26,26-April-2021

Sand hills are formed in front of a hotel, in order to be spread on the beach at the beginning of the tourist season, at Ammoudes Beach, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, on the island of Rhodes, Greece, April 12, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Greece has indicated its tourism industry will be fully open to visitors this summer after Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said a ban on travel between different regions of the country will be lifted on May 15, and tourism services can reopen on the same day.

Tourism is one of the mainstays of the Greek economy, which had already suffered years of problems before the novel coronavirus pandemic began. Last year, income from tourism was down more than 75 percent on the previous year.

Reuters reports that in 2020, Greece had just 7.4 million visitors, compared to 2019's record high of 31.3 million, and fewer than any year during the country's period of economic difficulties.

Travelers from European Union member states, the United Kingdom, United States and other countries are already able to visit without the need for seven days in quarantine, despite Greece continuing to have a mortality rate above the EU average.

Overseas travelers who are either fully vaccinated or can show proof of a negative test taken within 72 hours of departure will be permitted to visit Greece.

"Our goal is to have a safe Easter (the Greek Orthodox church celebrates Easter on May 2) and a free summer. But one cannot undermine the other," said Mitsotakis in a televised address.

"That's why we should not travel at Easter. Athens and other cities still have many COVID cases. Mass movement carries the risk of spreading the virus everywhere.

"The threat continues to remain, and for that reason, as we have shown, we are moving forward step by step once, every week, we have evaluated the epidemiological data with experts."

In a special television address on Wednesday, he added that "the vaccines, the self-tests, and the better weather make us confident that this unprecedented adventure is ending".

The news will be particularly keenly greeted in the UK, where it is hoped that from May 17, international travel will be permitted again as part of the next stage of emergence from lockdown.

The Guardian newspaper quoted a senior figure at the Greek ministry of tourism as saying the gradual process of reopening before May 14 was "baby steps".

"Under the plan, airports will reopen in Kos, Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, Corfu, Athens, Thessaloniki and Chania and Heraklion on Crete," she said.

"We're not expecting tourists to start arriving en masse, but the system needs to be tested. It can't be switched on, in one go, overnight."

In addition, after almost five months of being shut, restaurants with terraces will be allowed to reopen from May 3, with pupils returning to school the following week, where they and staff will be expected to conduct regular self-tests.

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