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Economy

Greece Dangles Cheaper Tax-Cut Air Fares for Tourist Lure

ATHENS — In a bid to entice tourists wary of the COVID-19 Coronavirus to take a flyer on coming, Greece's New Democracy government will cut flight taxes almost in half as the international airports in Athens and Thessalonki open in a first phase.

That will begin on June 15, accepting those from countries with records as similarly successful as Greece in holding down the number of cases and fatalities and with random or required testing depending on the country of origin.

Full tourism will start July 1 but it's unclear whether international air traffice will be in full force by then and if visitors will risk coming with the pandemic still not having subsided, even in Greece.

The Valued Added Tax (VAT) will be cut on transportation from 24 to 13 percent, including on other tourist sector services to make travel to and within Greece cheaper, said the site Insider.

For now international flights are going into Athens only, with mandatory testing and quarantine in place for all arrivals. Until June 14, "non-EU citizens are banned from entering Greece for non-essential travel, which includes tourism," with some exceptions, according to the US Embassy & Consulate in Greece. 

From June 15, only travelers from high-risk areas, as defined by this list from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), will face required COVID-19 testing upon arrival. The list includes the US and UK.

The government said earlier that visitors from high-risk countries will spend a night in a designated hotel to await their tests results and if they prove positive will either either have to self-isolate for a week, or quarantine under supervision for two weeks. It wasn't said how that would work if someone was planning a shorter stay. 

Whether travelers from high-risk countries would still face the same restrictions then will be announced later, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

While most travel restrictions within Europe have been lifted, nonessential travel is currently not recommended in many places, such as in the US, where the Centers for Disease Control warns against it and Greece's rules could change.

Social distancing requirements are in effect in Greece along with wearing masks on public transportation, in elevators, and in hospitals, but only recommended in other enclosed spaces, although widely defied or ignored.

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