Minister: Greece cautiously reopening for summer travel



The plan to allow direct flights from abroad as of July 1 should not be cause for public concern, Civil Protection Deputy Minister for Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias said on Thursday, as the plan is to reopen Greece to tourism gradually and cautiously after the global pandemic breakout.

“We understand citizens’ concerns about tourism but there must be trust,” he said. “We still have 40 days ahead of us to get ready and to reliably guarantee that all safety standards are met.”

According to the 'Restart Tourism' plan unveiled on Wednesday, international flights will resume on June 15 but only from countries that have successfully contained their infections numbers and only to Athens. That will be extended to all the country’s airports by July 1 if the first phase of the reopening goes well.

At the briefing held with Health Ministry spokesperson and infectious diseases expert, Professor Sotiris Tsiodras, Hardalias said several factors would be considered, including what was happening in other countries and which countries would be exempted based on their epidemiological features.

"Random sampling and controls will be thorough and strict wherever necessary, in order to keep the general population safe," he noted.

Currently, flights are limited to the Athens International Airport, where travellers submit to coronavirus tests and have to follow quarantine protocols. "Absolute numbers (of incoming flights) show a reduction and near-disappearance of incoming infection cases," Hardalias said.

Between May 13 and 20, for example, 21 flights arrived in Athens with 2,236 passengers, of whom only 1 was found to be positive. In the last 4 days, 3 flights from Germany have arrived with 548 passengers, several as transit travellers through countries with heavy epidemiological loads, but all tests were negative.

Next Monday, May 25, will see the reopening of bars, cafes and restaurants, which will have to implement strict social distancing and hygiene measures to ensure staff and customer safety. The same day, the government will announce whether the primary schools, kindergartens and nursery stations would open on June 1 or not.