"There is a need for cooperation, understanding and consensus so that we can overcome the situation we are experiencing and slowly build the next day for our country, for our islands, for Greek tourism," Greece’s Civil Defence and Deputy Minister for Crisis Management, Nikos Hardalias stressed.
On Sunday, he continued his four-day tour of the country's regional airports, visiting the airports on the islands of Karpathos, Rhodes and Kos, ahead of the resumption of international flights as of July 1.
All 18 regional airports in Greece are ready to reopen for international flights and tourists from abroad, having taken all necessary measures and precautions to protect the health and safety of visitors, staff and permanent residents against the novel coronavirus.
On the island of Rhodes, he noted that the island was one of the main gateways for the entry of tourists and "a great wager, a big cog in our effort to restart tourism, in cooperation with the regional authority, the municipality and other agencies involved."
"We have already carried out a first inspection of the facility in terms of the spatial arrangements and on Tuesday there will be a simulation drill, which will be followed by a technical meeting that will include an Armed Forces detail and the doctors who will carry out the targeted sampling and tests, as there will be 605 tests on Rhodes each day so that we have a sufficient volume of data. I describe the testing as targeted because it will be carried out via a platform, whereby we will know at any given time for any traveller that enters the country, by filling in the mandatory document that was announced in a NOTAM on Saturday, based on which no one can enter the country without us knowing their itinerary and their route," Hardalias said.
As of June 27 and until August 31, based on a NOTAM issued by the Greek Civil Aviation Authority on Saturday, all passengers arriving in Greece must fill in a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) at least 48 hours before they check in for their flight, providing information that will include their departure airport, the address where they will be staying and the expected duration of their stay in Greece, among others. The information on the form is a key element of the country's planning for protection against the pandemic and preventing the spread of the virus.
He also emphasised that there were still difficulties to negotiate: "I think that this is a period in which we must all go the extra mile. We have passed through the first stage of difficulty but we have before us two months in which our reflexes, procedures and protocols will be tested. I think that everything will go well and it must be understood that opening up the economy, supporting tourism, is a priority but that above all else, the matter of public health is our foremost concern. On this matter there will be no shortcuts under any circumstances, no matter what the pressures. There are protocols that must be followed and, by Monday, the infrastructure for quarantines will be finalised. We are not only interested in keeping travellers safe but also the general population and the people that will receive them."
Health and hygiene teams with staff from the Armed Forces will be stationed at each airport and will carry out tests based on targeted sampling on passengers arriving on flights from abroad. Anyone that tests positive for the novel coronavirus will be required to stay in quarantine hotels that will operate in the capitals of all prefectures for 14 days.
Hardalias also stated that "the issue of public health is above and beyond anything else. It is a direct priority of the government for the opening of the economy and especially the support of tourism at every level and here in the very beautiful northern Aegean. But this must be done in clear public health terms, all travellers who come here should be and feel safe but above and beyond anything else, here our islanders, all those who will host them should feel safe."
Over the weekend, Greece launched an information campaign “Enjoy your stay – Stay safe”, urging tourists to be mindful of health rules during their holiday in the country.
The General Secretariat for Civil Protection issued nine directives for the necessary protection measures, given that from July 1, Greece will “open” to foreign travellers.
Greek authorities are hoping to salvage the season and limit some of the losses incurred by the tourism industry while maintaining the positive momentum achieved by the successful management of the first wave of the novel virus.
The messages will be located at all entry points (airports and ports) and will be available in three languages – English, French and German. Flyers will also be distributed to travellers.
In addition, basic rules for travellers on both international and domestic flights require mandatory use of a mask for those entering the airport building, where only holders of a ticket are permitted to enter except in cases where an escort is essential, such as for children or disabled persons.
Protective barriers have been installed at all points where the public is served, while masks must be worn at all times in the airport and on flights except when they are required to be removed for security and identity checks. Changing the mask every four hours is recommended.
Staff will be equipped with PPE and a distance of 1.5 metres from others must be maintained at all times. Surfaces and equipment will be regularly disinfected while antiseptics will be available in airport waiting areas and toilets. Plastic bins used at the security checkpoints will be disinfected between each use.
Passengers are also advised to use web check-in and self-check-in, luggage tag printing, baggage drop off and e-parking where possible.