GR US

Now Welcome in Greece, Australians Can't Go There Yet

Αssociated Press

A passenger wearing a face mask sits outside the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, in Athens on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS - Happy to hear that Greece would drop initial plans to limit tourists to just 29 countries and admit everyone, Australians – including the vast Diaspora community there – can't come because their government has barred travel outside the country for now.

That's to keep dealing with the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic although Australia has fared better than most countries in holding down the number of cases and deaths, as did Greece which now is lifting its lockdown and wants people to come.

Australians must seek exemption from the government in order to leave the country and tourism is not a sufficient enough excuse, the British newspaper The Daily Mail said in a report.

While Greece is among the best in the world in dealing with the health crisis Australian officials aren't convinced and said there's still a high risk of visitors three coming down with the virus and bringing it back. 

Greece's ambassador to Australia, George Papacostas, also noted there still aren't any direct flights into Greece, with only the international airport outside Athens opening to traffic and tourism not due to resume in full until July 1.

Travellers would have to make their way en-route the United Arab Emirates, Asia or Qatar, which is now blacklisted after 12 arrivals at Athens tested positive for the virus and were put in quarantine, The Guardian also said.

By travelling en-route through Qatar, UAE or Asia, the quarantine-free period in turn becomes invalid and tourists could find themselves locked down in a facility instead of out enjoying holidays.

A Department of Home Affairs spokeswoman said Australian dual-nationals who leave the country on their foreign passport wouldn't need an exemption at the airport. 

“We are opening up, but at the same time we are closely monitoring the situation. Strict health protocols will protect both staff and tourists,' Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said, reaching out to tourists whose revenue brings in as much as 20 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 178.61 billion euros ($200.3 billion.) 

“Our aim is to be able to welcome every tourist who has overcome their fear and has the ability to travel to our country,” he said.

Peter Collignon, a Professor of Infectious Diseases at the Australian National University, said there's a greater risk in contracting COVID-19 due to the difference in testing.  

“I would be worried about going to a place where there's not been the same amount of testing as Australia. You've got to assume both the guests you're with and people in your hotel could be carrying COVID-19,” he told The Guardian of the worry.