New health warnings for travel to Greece following the lifting of most lockdown measures
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.
Too much, too soon?
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has issued warnings against non-essential travel to Greece’s 13 south Aegean islands including popular Mykonos and Santorini just a month after Greece officially launched its tourist season and ended most restrictions related to the lockdown.
Locally, Greek Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias has also expressed concern about rising COVID-19 cases in Mykonos and Ios, as well as Zakynthos, Tinos, Lefkada, Santorini, Paros and Rhodes.
“We are opening our tourist industry to the world,” tourism minister Haris Theocharis had declared in June in front of the Temple of Poseidon just outside of Athens. According to the BBC, visitors from Germany had already begun arriving in the country. Travelers from nations on the EU’s “green list” have begun making their way to Greece now that tourists are able to visit. In addition, travelers from the United States, Serbia, Israel and the United Arab Emirates are welcome, as long as they have been vaccinated or can show negative COVID-19 test results.
Greek officials said they are “putting the lockdown behind us” thanks to the success of its vaccination rollout. Museums have now reopened, and retail shops can now operate without requiring appointments, though limits on capacity will apply to keep up with social distancing protocols.
Authorities say Greece ranks fourth out of all EU countries in the rate of inoculation per 100 residents.
While several restrictions remain in place, the government has relaxed many measures implemented during lockdown. For example, residents no longer have to send text messages to a hotline whenever they leave their homes or go shopping, people are allowed to travel between regions, and late evening curfew hours are now limited to between 12:30 a.m. and 5 a.m.
Greece has been aggressive in planning its reopening. It debuted an expensive promotional campaign to celebrate the reopening of its borders to visitors. Tourism is tremendously important to the nation’s economy, with as much as a fifth of its workforce employed in the tourist industry.
Travelers entering from the above countries will not have to quarantine provided they have proof they are fully vaccinated or have a negative COVID-19 PCR test result carried out 72 hours prior to arrival. All tourists will have to abide by any of Greece’s remaining lockdown restrictions, such as the late-night curfew.
“The whole country is safe,” tourism minister Haris Theocharis had said to parliament back in April in outlining the sun-soaked European nation’s plans to reopen.
That plan to reopen to all travelers included a “five lines of defense” strategy. Those lines include:
- All visitors must be fully vaccinated or present a negative COVID-19 test result;
- A checking system at Greece’s airports and borders, where passengers can be selected randomly to take a rapid test;
- Any visitor who tests positive for coronavirus will be isolated in a “quarantine hotel”;
- All tourism industry workers must be vaccinated (they will move up the priority list once the most vulnerable Greek citizens get the vaccine); and
- Strict adherence to safety protocols such as social distancing.
What does this all mean for U.S. citizens looking to return to Athens, or make their first visit to one of the Greek Isles like Santorini or Mykonos? Despite Greece’s reopening for tourism, the latest travel advisories from the U.S. Embassy in Greece says American visitors should “reconsider” traveling to the country.
Greece is a key element of European airlines’ summer bounce-back plan. The resumption of tourism is expected to lead to an increase in flights coming into the country. Already, low-cost airline Ryanair has added extra flights from the U.K. to the Greek Isles. British Airways, anticipating the resumption of Greek tourism, is considering re-routing some of the larger planes in its fleet — like Boeing 787s and 777s — that are sitting idle at Heathrow Airport and using them for shorter flights to the Mediterranean. Emirates has resumed its nonstop fifth-freedom route from New York (JFK) to Athens (ATH).
Bringing tourism back is essential to Greece’s economic bottom line. Many cities and towns in the southeastern European nation rely on the money spent by visitors, and the effects of the year-long pandemic have been incredibly harmful to many local businesses.
You can read all of The Points Guy’s coverage of Greece on our hub page here.
Additional reporting by Emily McNutt and Ben Smithson.
Featured photo by Freeartist/Getty Images.
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