LONDON — A United Kingdom move to put put seven Greek islands on its COVID-19 quarantine list affecting tourists returning home created a mad scramble of some 60,000 Britons vacationing in Greece to try to get back before it kicks in.
To add to Greece's tourism woes in a summer of disappointment that saw far fewer numbers arrive that was expected after the country warily opened its borders in July, The Netherlands advised its citizens if they go to any Greek island they will be subject to a 10-day isolation when they return, said Kathimerini in a report on both directives.
The Dutch Foreign Ministry also said citizens planning to travel to mainland Greece and the Peloponnese should not cancel their plans, they should exercise caution and abide by health safety regulations.
The UK deadline for tourists to get back before facing quarantine took effect at 4 a.m. on Sept. 9 with almost no warning, forcing people to hastily try to rearrange tickets home and likely facing costs for doing so after paying for COVID-19 tests to get into Greece.
The British newspaper The Daily Mail said the vacationers were blindsided by the UK decision from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps that found Greece unsafe although the UK has been among the hardest-hit countries in the world.
He redlined the islands of Crete, Lesbos, Mykonos, Santorini, Serifos, Tinos and Zakynthos. Ironically, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis went to Santorini in June to announce Greece's then-coming tourism opening.
The UK said its decision was based on a spike in cases on the islands, especially Crete and Zakynthos – a favorite spot of British hooligans and where almost anything goes – as well as Mykonos, where the Greek government has been unable to stop wild partying in bars and private villas that spread the virus.
“I don’t understand it because if anything it seems safer here than in the UK. It’s been very quiet, there’s barely anyone on the beaches, all the staff wear masks and there are hand-sanitizers on every table,” Julie Frew, who was holidaying on Crete, told the Daily Mail.
The Daily Mail also said that holidaymakers have seen ticket prices for return flights almost triple since the measure was announced although it wasn't said if the airlines were deliberately gouging people.
ble since the measure was announced.
Shapps told Parliament that improved access to data meant he could now decide rules on an island-by-island basis depending on COVID-19 infection rates, the news agency Reuters reported.
Passengers arriving from the blackballed islands will have to quarantine for 14 days on arrival in England, he said under a policy allowing different rules to different islands under new guidelines.
"For the first time, we have the data and the capacity to add and remove specific islands from quarantine while still providing maximum protection to the UK public," he said.
Earlier, Wales added six Greek islands to its list after a host of infections were found among passengers on a flight returning from Zakynthos, and Scotland put arrivals from Greece under restrictions.