Authorities on Greece’s most popular tourist island, Mykonos, will deploy more than a dozen drones to spot those who challenge safety protocols aimed at preventing the spread and resurgence of COVID-19.
The decision, known as “Operation Mykonos,” comes after a string of local so-called “Corona-parties” organised by entrepreneurs at private villas and estates in recent weeks to bypass safety rules banning the operation of nightclubs.
It also comes as the Greek government struggles to revive its battered tourism sector, tempting foreign travellers — mainly from the United States, Europe, Israel, and Russia — with the promise of a safe summer holiday stay under the Greek sun.
Foreign travellers are required to abide by local lockdowns, curfews, and safety protocols during their stays.
Under “Operation Mykonos,” authorities will deploy 15 drones to fly over private villas or establishments in Mykonos that were host to parties packed with hundreds of locals and foreigners in recent weeks. Police teams will raid the establishments upon notice, fining the offenders.
Fines can range between $365 to over 6,000 euros.
Officials said the measures, coupled with heightened police controls, inspections and added surveillance cameras across Mykonos, will serve as a blueprint for other popular hotspots among foreign travellers.
These include Rhodes, Santorini and Paros, according to authorities.
“Illegal parties spell a greater risk of seeing the virus spread, infecting more and more people,” warned Nikos Hardalias, the head of Greece’s Civil Protection Agency, on Sunday. “It spells a spike in COVID cases that can lead to fresh restrictions, leading businesses to shut down, causing major damage to tourist areas.”
“It is high time,” he warned, “for everyone to size up to the challenge and take on full responsibility for their actions.”
On Monday, government spokesman Aristotelia Peloni also criticised the mushrooming “corona-parties” gripping the country, saying she wished “Greece’s youth showed similar initiative and enthusiasm in the state’s nationwide vaccination drive.”
“The country’s freedom,” she said, “can only come through comprehensive immunisation.”
Effectively in lockdown since last November, Greece started easing some of its sweeping restrictions, including curfews and travel bans, in mid-May when it re-launched international travel.
The latest crackdown, however, underscores the absurdity of what critics call a hasty and ill-thought-out strategy.
Under a campaign called “Blue Freedom,” the government wants to vaccinate all 700,000 or so adult residents of Greece’s islands in the Aegean and Ionian Seas by the end of June, hoping that Greece can make Britain’s revised green list of travel nations.
All islanders can get the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to boost immunisation.
By June, Mykonos had vaccinated about four in ten of its residents, and Santorini over 50% the highest in Greece.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines against Covid-19 will be made available to Greece’s island population, Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias.
The “Blue Freedom” operation, which involves 19 islands, has so far depended solely on the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Greece Tuesday logged 1,339 new SARS-CoV-2 infections from 808 the previous day.
Officials said 30 people died of Covid-19, up from 24 on Monday, while 381 patients remained intubated.