ATHENS – It won't be like a normal summer in many ways, but Greece reopened to some tourists on June 15 with the lifting of a lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus when the first flights landed at airports in Athens and Thessaloniki.
Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said the New Democracy government, which wants to get the economy cranking again after shutting non-essential businesses up to 10 weeks also will keep visitors safe with health protocols widely being defied.
He said it would be a delicate balance between an “authentic” travel experience and the safety of visitors, said Kathimerini.
“Greece is opening its doors to tourism … everything is ready. We want Greece to be the safest tourist destination in Europe. This is what the government, businesses and the industry are focusing on,” he said, adding that Greece is welcoming tourists from countries with low Coronavirus infection rates.
A total of 28 flights from abroad landed at Athens International Airport (AIA) and two at Makedonia airport in Thessaloniki, the country's second-largest city and officials said it went off without a hitch despite a mix of random and mandatory virus testing.
Passengers landing in Athens from Albania, Belgium, France, Italy, North Macedonia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden were tested but there's a ban on flights from the United Kingdom and Tukey until June 30.
The virus tests take about 45 minutes, adding to the delays when arriving at the airports and getting to destinations but officials said travelers were expecting that but came anyway.
“Anyone who chooses to travel during these first days is expecting inspections,” an airline executive not named told the paper. All international arrivals will also be allowed to all Greek airports as of July 1.