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Economy

Make or Break Summer Tourism for Greece, Slow Vaccines Add Doubt

ATHENS – Counting on a big return of tourists when the country reopens to them on May 14 – the biggest hope for a summer boom – Greece’s chances of a faster recovery from the lingering COVID-19 pandemic are hinging on slow-moving vaccination programs in other countries.

The New Democracy government wants visitors from countries with relatively safer records in dealing with the Coronavirus and said those who can show proof of vaccinations or negative tests would be welcome.

But worries about whether they would be quarantined or have to take molecular tests in Greece, which could tie up their time and money, is seen as a disincentive that could upset a comeback, said Kathimerini.

The government has eased a five-month pseudo-lockdown that was widely ignored or defied and wasn’t working, allowing non-essential businesses to open with conditions, but not fully yet in the second-and-third largest cities of Thessaloniki and Patra.

But travel for the Holy Week period up to and past Easter on May 2 will likely be allowed, reports said, after officials admitted that “lockdown fatigue” would drive further defiance that had already seen COVID parties and gatherings.

April and May are being seen as a kind of litmus test for recovery, the government eager to get foreign revenues as state subsidy programs are draining the coffers, workers and businesses partially paid by the government.

The European Union’s delivery of vaccines has been a debacle as all 27 member states have to reach consensus, the agonizingly slow policy that limits how fast the bloc can work, dragging out the program into and past summer.

The government reportedly looked at paying the cost of molecular tests for tourists, said the paper, but dismissed it because of the costs as free self-tests are being distributed weekly to residents through pharmacies.

After injecting 17.5 billion euros ($20.78 billion) into the economy in 2020, the government has so far pumped in another 14 billion euros ($16.62 billion) although there’s been no report of how it’s using 32 billion euros ($38 billion) in EU grants and loans for COVID-19 recovery programs.

With restaurants, bars and taverns not due to open until May 10 at the earliest, they will reportedly be limited to outdoor seating for now, limiting how much tax revenues they would bring in.

Despite the laundry list of worries, the paper said government officials are confident there will be a comeback once the vaccinations accelerate further although only about 10 percent of the population has been inoculated and a 70 percent rate needs to be reached to slow the pandemic.

The government also will continue tax cuts for people who’ve lost a sizable part of their income, which further diminishes returns for further aid or state programs during the lingering health crisis.

But there will be an inflow of 4 billion euros ($4.75 billion) from the Recovery Fund to help and the government is reaching out to foreign investors said eager to take a chance on the comeback.

The government is also luring so-called digital nomads from other countries who have the kind of technical skills that lets them work remotely, Greece seen as an especially favored destination.

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