ATHENS – Tourists with proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 tests will find the door open to Greece for them – although those from the United States, European Union and a handful of other countries are already being admitted and the official tourism opening is May 15.
The so-called “Green Pass,” either the vaccine certificate in paper or on a mobile phone or the test showing no infection is a golden ticket for foreign visitors beginning June 1 and could be the standard for traveling, including between regions in Greece for residents.
Priming the pump for an economic recovery while the pandemic is still lingering, but showing signs of easing because of vaccinations after a lenient lockdown didn't work fast enough, the New Democracy government is further pulling back restrictions.
Organized beaches – usually public beaches taken over by private interests who require pay to use some equipment and facilities – are already open as are museums, archaeological sites and other venues.
The government wants to integrate the so-called Green Pass from visitors into the Passenger Locator Form (PFL) that prospective visitors fill 48 hours before arrival to further speed entry and be another incentive, said Kathimerini.
When filling the form, in addition to the airport they are departing from, their destination and duration of their stay, visitors will add the data from their Green Pass.
That includes if they have been vaccinated, fallen ill from the Coronavirus at least 20 days before arrival and whether they have tested negatively in a PCR or antigen test.
The Green Pass will go into effect from June 1 and Greek authorities want to streamline the pass inspection process and avoid congestion at airports or border crossings, the paper said.
Countries in the Green Pass program are: France, Malta, Iceland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Croatia, Bulgaria, Greece, Slovenia, Germany, the Czech Republic, Romania, Cyprus, Spain, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Denmark, Hungary, Luxembourg, Finland, Belgium, Ireland, Slovakia, Lichtenstein and Norway.
Greece will also accept visitors from China and Russia and those vaccinated with the Chinese and Russian vaccines that had been considered dubious but now cleared, as well as the four used in the west: AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.
Officials told the newspaper that the government wants at all costs to avoid another lockdown, which could be difficult if not impossible with scenes showing Greeks and the first tourist arrivals packing streets and public spots, although restaurants for now offer only outdoor service.
The requirement for safe social distancing is now essentially moot as it proves impossible to keep people apart on beaches and pedestrian walkways and streets and tourist venues.
The government has set as its goal 4.5 million fully vaccinated individuals by the end of June, before the peak of the tourist season, counting on the arrival of 1.2 million Johnson & Johnson shots with the European Union abandoning plans to get more from AstraZeneca which failed to meet delivery deals.
Some countries may nevertheless warn travelers to Greece they could face quarantine on return, which could be a disincentive for them to come, with the United States warning Americans that Greece isn't safe and the United Kingdom, which won't let people travel until May 15, prohibiting going to Greece.
That's over reports that the pandemic numbers are still too high for the US and UK although they have been falling and the EU has much of Greece on a green list of being safe to visit.