After admitting Chinese tourists to the popular island of Santorini as the coronavirus outbreak was spreading, Greece’s government has temporarily closed visa centers in China and suspended applications for visas.
Chinese tourists are a big element in Greece’s tourism sector and were expected to come in droves again this summer but the virus spread has caused such worry and anxiety that they won’t be given visas to visit unless plans change.
Greece has become the second country, after the Czech Republic bar Chinese visitors to prevent the spread of the virus, though sources at the SchengenVisaInfo.com website had warned all European Union Member Countries may introduce measures soon.
The Greek Embassy in Beijing, China, has sent out a message to all travel agents in China, announcing the decision to halt visa issuance until Feb. 9 at least but with more countries around the world imposing similar restrictions and airlines stopping flights to China.
“All visa application centers of Greece have suspended operation and that resumption of operations will be announced with a new notice,” the message reads, said the Schengen Visa Info website.
The Schengen area comprises 26 EU countries which abolished passports and all other types of border control at their mutual borders. The area mostly functions as a single jurisdiction for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy.
Greece’s embassy recommended to all Greek citizens to limit travel to China, while instructing those already in China to avoid traveling, for any reason, to Hubei province and the other regions where travel has been restricted and where the virus began.
While there have been no detected cases of coronavirus infections in Greece, a Thessaloniki resident who developed flu symptoms after returning home from Wuhan, China, has tested negative for the new coronavirus.
Greece’s move to suspend visas in China confirmed the site’s report the EU is readying to get tougher on visa conditions for Chinese tourists and businesspeople as well as people who have been in China in recent months.
“The block has already decided to activate the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, but if the virus keeps spreading at the current tempo, the EU may introduce entry restrictions by the end of the week to Chinese nationals and recent visitors to mainland China,” a source who wasn’t identified told the site.
The suspension of visas for Chinese could extend if the virus keeps spreading and as more countries are reacting swiftly to try to control the outbreak of the illness which causes respiratory problems and could be fatal, killing some 304 people so far and infecting another 14,550 around the world.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses first identified in humans in the mid-1960s. Some cause the common cold, while others found in bats, camels and other animals have evolved into more severe illnesses.
The name comes from the Latin word “corona,” meaning a halo or crown, which the viruses resemble when viewed under a microscope.