Greece has opened up again for tourism allowing citizens from 19 countries to access the Hellenic Republic for their summer holidays, although Americans and British tourists are excluded.
The Greek Government has outlined its plan how the country will gradually reopen for international tourism. From 15th June, international flights are allowed again to touch down at Athens International Airport, followed by other Greek airports on 1st July.
According to Greek media, initially only visitors from trusted nations are welcome, this being countries where the corona (COVID-19) epidemic is under relative control.
A preliminary list of 19 countries whose citizens are welcome in Greece has been leaked as well. Among these countries are all other Balkan nations such as Serbia, Bulgaria, Albania and Romania, as well as countries across Central Europe such as Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland.
According to one other source, Germany will be placed on the list as well as the 20th country whose citizens will be welcome to visit Greece.
Tourists from Denmark and Norway are welcome too, although Sweden is one of the most notable absentees from the list. Other major European nations whose citizens are not yet welcome to visit Greece are the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Interestingly, the list also includes more faraway countries outside of Europe. Although the inclusion of Israel is not surprising given the country has COVID-19 under relative control and has cooperated from the start with the Greek authorities to reintroduce tourism, the inclusion of countries such as Japan, Australia and especially China is more surprising.
So far, tourists from the United States are left out completely and cannot visit Greece for the time being.
According to the Greek Government, more countries could be added to the list around mid-July if they improve on their epidemiological data.
Talking to British media, Greek tourism minister Haris Theoharis said that the UK is one of the countries whose record on the corona virus outbreak is currently not good enough for Britons to be allowed to visit Greece.
Mr Theoharis said: “I think that the UK has a big difference in terms of the current medical status of the country with Greece, so I don’t think it’s likely it will be there.”
Although the Greek Government had long campaigned for a health passport or compulsory COVID-19 tests for tourists, they decided not to pursue this.
Tourists from the aforementioned nations do not need a corona virus test, although the Greek authorities did notice that officials can conduct on-the-spot tests.
Although no details are mentioned yet, there will likely be extra scrutiny for arriving passengers to make sure nobody enters the country with COVID-19 symptoms. Such measures could for example include temperature checks, as well as questionnaires to determine if passengers might be a health risk or might have visited risk areas before coming to Greece.
Even if you do live in one of the countries which have been granted the green light to visit Greece, there is however still the chance that you could face a quarantine upon returning home.
For example, so far citizens from Romania and Israel will still face a 14-day quarantine or isolation at home if they would return from a Greek holiday, although these restrictions could be lifted by the respective governments.
It is vital that you also check with your own authorities if there are any travel restrictions. The same counts if you are transiting through a third country. For example, as an Australian visitor wishing to visit Greece, there are no direct flights to reach Athens. If you would fly Emirates and transit through Dubai, you would also need to comply with any potential rules set by the United Arab Emirates government.
Although it is exciting news that Greece will slowly reopen for tourists, there are still quite a few restrictions in place which you should be aware of. Although there are chances that the current list of countries whose citizens are allowed to visit Greece will be expanded, it doesn’t look good so far for Americans and British travellers.
Do realise that although tourism plays a vital role in the Greek economy and that the country is anxious to save as much of the tourism season as possible, the Greek Government and its people are not willing to throw their excellent COVID-19 handling down the drain by allowing unchecked tourism.
Note that there is almost no health care infrastructure in the way of hospitals on many of the popular islands, with the exception of Crete. Although there are small clinics and GP’s on the Cycladic islands such as Serifos (top holiday tip!), those with serious COVID-19 symptoms will need to be evacuated to the mainland.
It is perfectly understandable that the Greek Government wants to protect its people as the infrastructure will not cope with a massive surge in COVID-19 cases. So far Greece has done exceptionally well getting COVID-19 under control (2,853 cases, 168 deaths) but it will be a though balancing act between national health and its economy.