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Economy

Greece Will Allow Tourists from Turkey, Albania, North Macedonia

ATHENS – Planning to open to international tourism May 15 even if the COVID-19 pandemic is still lingering, Greece will now allow visitors from Turkey, Albania and North Macedonia during a third lockdown that limits domestic travel for Greeks and other residents.

The Civil Aviation Authority (YPA) announced the lifting of restrictions on flights from those countries although passengers must show a negative COVID-19 test taken with 72 hours of their arrival and will have to quarantine at home or their place of stay for seven days.

It wasn’t said how that would attract people who want to stay less than seven days or even longer as they would lose a week’s vacation by being required to stay indoors.

The YPA also increased the limit on visitors from Russia, to 4,000 per week from 500 before, with flights allowed to the airports of Athens, Thessaloniki and Heraklion in Crete, reported the Reuters news agency.

Passengers from Britain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) must take a rapid COVID-19 test upon arrival in Greece and those from the United Kingdom must take another test when their seven-day quarantine ends.

Random testing will also be conducted on arriving passengers. If travelers test positive, their quarantine will be extended to 14 days, likely a huge disincentive for people to come to Greece while it battles the Coronavirus.

Greece is very gradually easing some health measures but retail trade won’t open on March 29 as planned, nor will schools open in April although tourists from selected countries are allowed with conditions.

Saying that the government is providing a “clear roadmap for recovery,” Gloria Guevara, President and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), praised Greece and its government for its efforts to open international travel earlier than expected, the report added.

That came after Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis earlier announced the country’s plan to bring tourists back by May 14, although they too will be subject to conditions that could make the summer another washout.

"Greece is ready with a complete protocol for summer 2021," Theoharis said, "Tourists will be welcome if before travel they are either vaccinated, or have antibodies, or test negative (for COVID-19). All tourists will be subject to random testing,” he said.

Greece also got the European Union to accept the idea of a COVID-19 vaccine certificate allowing people to prove they’ve been inoculated and get through airports faster and face fewer restrictions.

But that’s not been fully adopted yet and the EU, requiring consensus from all 27 member states, has fumbled a vaccination campaign that’s so far behind schedule the summer can’t be saved for many countries.

“This clear roadmap to recovery could reopen the door to a bumper summer of travel for sun-starved holidaymakers looking to get away to Greece, and provide a significant boost to the country's economy,” Guevarasaid. “It also lays out the pathway which other countries could follow, in a bid to kickstart safe travel and help revive their own stricken economies,” she added.

In 2019, Greece had another record of visitors, some 31.3 million, three times the country’s population the British newspaper The Guardian reported and the New Democracy government hopes for half that many this year.

“We strongly believe the Greek roadmap shows the practical way forward for other countries to encourage the return of safe travels, as vaccine rollouts gain momentum to return the world’s mobility to get the globe moving again,” Guevara added.

Tourism brings in as much as one-third of Greece’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of some 168.17 billion euros ($200.3 billion,) and is the biggest employer and revenue engine, needed more than ever.

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