Greece has dropped quarantine requirements and announced it will now welcome tourists who have been vaccinated against covid-19 or have a negative PCR test performed up to 72 hours before travel.
Greece’s Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis told CNN on Monday that the country “is taking the first steps, which are the beginning of a gradual opening process leading to a full opening of tourism on May 14.
Under the new rules, Greece is willing to receive vaccinated or covid-tested tourists from the most relevant markets for the country, which includes countries in the European Union, the United Kingdom, Serbia, Israel, the United States and the United Arab Emirates.
Direct international flights are now allowed in cities such as Athens and Thessaloniki, on the east coast, in addition to the islands that are the most popular holiday destinations, such as Crete, Rhodes, Kos, Mykonos, Santorini or Corfu.
Greek authorities have assured that the country’s entry points are able to do quick checks on tourists and that there will be hotels ready to accommodate those who tested positive during the process and need to be quarantined. But tourists are subject to the same rules as locals: wearing masks and social distancing rules, in addition to the restrictions still in place at bars and restaurants in beach areas, such as only serving food to eat out.
The city of Athens has strongly campaigned for the introduction of covid-19 vaccine passports to encourage travel from across the European Union, with Greece holding negotiations with non-EU countries to try to establish travel corridors.
Already in March last year Greece was one of the main European destinations to open up to tourism before the summer, in particular to travellers from the United States, and, as CNN reminds us, the country has an economy heavily dependent on the sector, which provides 20% of GDP and 25% of total employment.
The lifting of restrictions in Greece is seen internally as a promise of the country opening fully to tourism in May, although in the awareness that the start will be slow and will depend on uncertain conditions involving other countries.
Greece has not been among the countries where vaccination is most accelerated and at the moment less than 10% of the population has received the first dose against the new coronavirus.
The vaccination plan in Greece started with the smaller islands, with less than a thousand inhabitants – also with the aim of the country having specific covid-free zones. On these smaller islands, the entire population has received the full two doses and the campaign is evolving to the larger islands, with the volume of vaccines expected to be boosted next month and many restrictions that are still in place to be lifted by May 14.