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Photo by s_kaisu/Shutterstock
The Greek government is rolling out a step-by-step approach to easing its coronavirus lockdowns and reopening the country’s beaches, archaeological sites, hotels, and restaurants.
Since June 15, international travelers from certain nations with “acceptably low” COVID-19 infection rates have been able to visit Greece.
On July 13, Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said the country is evaluating whether or not to open up to more travelers later this summer—including those from the U.S.
“Depending on the development of epidemiological data, we will consider opening to other countries, such as the United States, from the end of July,” he said. The update was reported by Greek Travel Pages, which covers the latest tourism industry news in Greece.
Currently, the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Greece reports: “We are aware of media reports that U.S. citizens might be permitted to enter Greece beginning July 31 with a negative COVID-19 test but cannot confirm or answer any questions as the Greek government has not made an official announcement.
“As of now, per the Greek Embassy in Washington, D.C., U.S. citizens residing in the United States are banned from entering Greece for non-essential travel, which includes tourism, unless you have an EU passport or meet one of the very narrow exceptions detailed in their posted information on entrance into the European Union/Schengen Area.”
After six weeks of strict coronavirus lockdowns banning all nonessential movement across the country, Greece started to gradually reopen its economy in early May. In a national address on May 20, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis declared the official start date of Greece’s tourist season as June 15, and since then, international travelers from countries with acceptably low rates of virus infection have been permitted to enter Greece.
As of July 15, travelers from the following countries can enter Greece by land, sea, or air, according to the Greek Tourism Board:
The list of permitted countries will be updated every two weeks, according to Greek officials.
Yes. As of July 15, travelers to Greece will be required to produce a negative COVID-19 test, taken no more than 72 hours before arrival in the country. Twenty-four hours before arriving in Greece, travelers also have to fill out a Passenger Locator Form (PLF), which requires “detailed information on their point of departure, the duration of previous stays in other countries, and the address of their stay while in Greece,” according to the government.
Greece has also suggested that these measures may become even more stringent, after the country saw a rise in COVID-19 cases with the return of tourists, reports the Telegraph. At present, around 2,200 people in the country have the virus—more “than at any other point during the pandemic.” These new procedures could include implementing land border checks, adding health screenings to bars and restaurants, and cutting back on the number of countries allowed in, instead of increasing them, which could obviously affect the possibility of Americans traveling to Greece.
Mitsotakis first announced the government’s cautious scheme to ease its coronavirus restrictions—which went into effect nationwide on March 22—at the end of April. Starting May 4, the country’s “low congestion level” shops and services, such as bookstores, electronic stores, and hair salons, began to reopen. During this first phase, Greeks were also granted permission to exercise individually outdoors, gather in groups of up to 10 people, and travel freely within their region of residence with some exceptions (travel between the mainland and Greek islands was prohibited until May 25).
From May 11 to 17, schools and religious spaces were allowed to restart their operations, followed closely by the country’s archaeological sites, zoos, shopping malls, and botanical gardens on May 18. Still, social-distancing measures continue to be enforced: It remains mandatory to wear a mask on public transportation, in taxis, and when visiting public shops, per government guidelines.
On May 16, more than 500 beaches reopened across Greece, but with strict rules: Until further notice, ticketed entrance is required at all Greek beaches to record the number of attendees, which cannot exceed 40 people per 1,000 square meters (10,765 square feet). The use of sun umbrellas is permitted, but each covering can only host up to two sunbeds (except for families with minors), and the minimum distance between umbrella poles must be at least 13 feet, according to a government-issued manual. Additionally, swimming is permitted, but group sports are forbidden and beachfront businesses can only offer takeaway service for packaged products (alcoholic beverages not included).
Starting May 25, Greece’s restaurants, bars, and cafés began welcoming visitors (which came earlier than the initial June 1 date following positive recommendations from the Infectious Disease Committee at the Greek Ministry of Health). Year-round hotels began to reopen as soon as June 1, followed by seasonal hotels on June 15.
The plan, Greece’s tourism minister Harry Theoharis says, is to welcome tourists back to the country for the end of the summer travel season. Tourism is a major income earner in Greece; last year, the country’s travel industry brought in 34 million visitors and over $19 billion in revenue. Still, “This season is not going to be like the other years,” Theoharis said in a statement to Reuters. “I would be a fool to believe that this could ever be the case. However, there is a lot that we can do to reopen the tourist economy.”
In his initial televised address to the nation, Mitsotakis said that the Greek government will review its rolled-back measures every 24 hours to monitor for possible outbreaks of the coronavirus. Still, it’s expected that large gatherings such as festivals, concerts, and sporting events will be canceled through summer. “Our emergence from quarantine will be done step by step,” the Greek prime minister said in his statement. “No one can rule out the risk of the threat rekindling.”
While the country’s step-by-step approach to reopening provides a glimmer of hope for eager travelers, it’s important to note that the European Union has recommended its member states (including Greece) bar U.S. travelers because the country has not “brought its coronavirus outbreak under control,” reports AFAR’s Michelle Baran. Countries can choose to ignore the recommendation, however, and the EU’s list will be updated every two weeks, leaving open the possibility that the U.S. will make the cut in the next few rounds. Currently, a Global Level 4 Health Advisory is still in effect for the United States, advising U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel.
This article originally appeared online on May 4, 2020. It has been updated to include current information.
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