ATHENS – Anticipating a big tourism spring and summer – while deaths from COVID-19 are at record levels – Greece will no longer require visitors to show a negative test on arrival as long as they are fully vaccinated.
That will begin on Feb. 7, Health Minister Thanos Plevris said, adding that tourists will have to produce a valid vaccination certificate acceptable in the European Union, which are good for travel for nine months.
Greece is hoping for a banner year in tourism although not yet expecting a return to the record levels of 2019 when more than 31 million visitors – three times the country’s population came.
Tourism is the country’s biggest revenue engine and brings in as much as 18-20 percent of the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of some 175.2 billion euros ($200.3 million) and has employed more than 900, 000 workers.
The rapid spread of the Omicron variant could see an end to the pandemic in Europe after infecting about 60 percent people on the continent by March, the World Health Organization’s Regional Director for Europe said.
“It’s plausible that the region is moving towards a kind of pandemic endgame,” Hans Kluge told Agence France-Presse, adding that once the wave recedes that, “There will be for some weeks and months a global immunity, either thanks to the vaccine or because people have immunity because of the infection, and also lowering seasonal risk.”
He added: “We anticipate that there will be a period of quiet before COVID-19 may come back towards the end of the year, but not necessarily the pandemic coming back,” Kluge said.
But he said it’s too early to consider it will retreat to an endemic stage instead of being worldwide and warned that other variants could pop up and upset all the predictions.
“There is a lot of talk about ‘endemic’ but endemic means that it is possible to predict what’s going to happen,” he said. “This virus has surprised us more than once,” he added.