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Society

Despite Pandemic, Heat, Fires, Tourists Still Coming to Greece

People anxious to travel after being penned up for as long as 18 months during the lingering COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns aren't being deterred from coming to Greece in the face of the health crisis, a brutally hot summer and a spate of wildfires.

Those have combined, however, to drive down expectations from 50 percent of the record levels of 2019 to 40 percent, but still better than was hoped in the spring before Greece opened the borders in July to those who were vaccinated, had a negative PCR test or had proof of recovery from the virus.

The surging Delta Variant from India that is now a dominant strain has brought rising cases and hospitalizations and the Eleftheria (Freedom) vaccination campaign has stalled.

Some 61 percent of the population of 10.7 million has been fully vaccinated but health authorities said a benchmark of 70 percent is needed to beat back the pandemic and anti-vaxxers and people defying health measures are holding bac progress.

International arrivals at the main tourist destinations, such as the Cyclades, Dodecanese and Ionian islands, as well as Crete, are at about 44 percent of 2019 levels, according to data compiled by Kathimerini from public and private sourcesbeing recorded. 

They were also 50 percent higher than 2020, the year of the first, strictest lockdown, from March until June although January and February 2020, normally dead winter months, had strong arrivals before the pandemic struck in March.

Trends in the first half of August were surprisingly good, with overall arrivals at 81 percent of 2019 and some destinations doing even better, the paper said, including the popular island of Santorini.

It's unclear whether the trend will continue as some operators are reporting cancellations for September, although airlines still believe there will be many last-minute bookings, the paper said.

July saw a strong rebound, with the Civil Aviation Authority reporting that international arrivals were 146.8 percent higher than in July 2020 when the airline business around the world was brought to a near halt by COVID-19.

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