As of 1 July, Greece intends to open its borders to all EU countries unless there are “unpleasant surprises”, Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis has said, adding that health protocols should be strictly applied.
Before, Greece announced it would open its country on 15 June to tourists from countries with similar epidemiological situations. These countries include Germany, China, Denmark, Austria, Bulgaria, Romania, and the Czech Republic.
It had also announced that tourists from so-called ‘blacklist’ countries, such as Belgium, France, Italy and the Netherlands could enter from 1 July, although half of the flights’ passengers would have to undergo sample testing.
Meanwhile, the Greek statistics office announced yesterday (4 June) that the economy’s recession for the first quarter of 2020 was 0.9% while the EU average was 3.8%. The figure is encouraging for the country; however, tourism, which is its main industry, will be put to the test this summer.
As of Friday (29 May), Greece recorded 2,907 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 1,374 recoveries and 175 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Travelling to Greece – supporting the tourism sector
On 14 March, authorities ordered seasonal hotels and tourist facilities to remain closed from 16 March until 30 April.
For people arriving on international flights, including Greek nationals, the government imposed a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine on 16 March. This was extended until the end of May, the Civil Aviation Authority said on Monday (18 May), AMNA reported.
International passengers land at Athens International airport only and have to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival. If the test is positive, foreign nationals are denied entry to Greece.
With these measures, it seems like no surprise that the tourism sector has suffered. The Greek government and the Greek government wanted to do something about it.
On 23 April, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called on the European Commission to come up with a plan to resume travel “as soon as possible”, according to Greek government sources. Speaking at the EU Council, Mitsotakis reportedly said the EU single market is not there only to serve the free movement of goods but also of people.
On 12 May, Tourism Minister Charis Theocharis told Deutsche Welle on 12 May that if the European Commission’s much-awaited recommendations on tourism for the summer turn out to be “light”, Athens is ready to go its own way. “If it is [the proposal] light, Greece will push for specific measures through bilateral agreements with other countries, as has already been announced. It is very important to restore air travel,” he added.
So far, the government has been working on a series of measures to save the summer season.
Rather than consider EU agreements, Athens has been exploring the possibility of interstate agreements with countries that have good performance in controlling the pandemic, such as Israel, Cyprus and Austria. The deals will focus on the way their citizens would travel to Greece, it was reported by the Kathimerini newspaper at the start of May.
Speaking to CNN, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stressed that in the best-case scenario, Greece will launch the summer season as of 1 July.
To prepare for the summer season, Greek flag carrier Aegean Airlines gradually started to increase domestic flights as of 18 May, while it will restart basic itineraries abroad interrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic, AMNA reported.
On 18 May, the airline will add more flights to Iraklio and Chania on Crete, Thessaloniki and Alexandroupolis in northern Greece, while the same will happen as of May 25 for the islands of Rhodes, Corfu, Mytilini, Chios, Samos and the rest of the domestic itineraries.
Starting late in May, the airline will start connecting with main hubs in Europe – Munich, Zurich, Frankfurt and Geneva – with a limited number of flights, and increase the number of flights to Brussels, the only foreign destination it did not cancel during the lockdown.