Greece accelerates reopening, plans to welcome tourists back from next week
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.
Greece is reopening to some tourists sooner than originally expected. A Greek official said on Wednesday that the country will reopen to fully vaccinated travelers coming from the United States from next week. Additionally, Americans who have received a negative COVID-19 test will be permitted to enter.
“We will gradually lift the restrictions at the beginning of next week ahead of the opening on May 14,” a senior tourism ministry official told Reuters.
The country will reopen to tourists coming from the European Union and five other countries, including the United Kingdom, United States, Serbia, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
Travelers must arrive at one of the following airports: Athens, Thessaloniki, Heraklion, Chania, Rhodes, Kos, Mykonos, Santorini or Corfu. Additionally, Greece will allow travelers to enter through two land borders.
As of next week, travelers entering from the above countries will not have to quarantine so long as they have proof they are fully vaccinated or have a negative COVID-19 PCR test result carried out 72 hours prior to arrival. However, tourists will be subject to Greece’s ongoing lockdown restrictions.
Last week, Greek officials confirmed that the country would reopen its borders to visitors on May 14.
“The whole country is safe,” Tourism Minister Haris Theocharis said to parliament last week in outlining the sun-soaked European nation’s plans to reopen.
That plan to reopen to all travelers includes 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 wearing masks and social distancing.
Most notably, all visitors will have to be fully vaccinated or have proof of a negative COVID-19 test result. With regards to the last item, Greek officials insist tourists will have to comply with the same rules that locals do to maintain safety.
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? At the moment, the latest travel advisories from the U.S. Embassy in Greece say American visitors are still not allowed to enter the country. We think that information will be updated shortly.
Greece could be a key element of European airlines’ bounce-back plan. The resumption of tourism in May could lead to additional flights 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.
Additional reporting by Emily McNutt.
Featured photo by WIN-Initiative/Getty Images.
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