Finally, Greece decided to lift the ban on the entry of Americans, as we reported in our Greek edition this week.
And I say ‘finally’ because while the ban was initially fully justified, its lifting was delayed.
When the ban was put in place, America was setting records for its number of coronavirus cases – and deaths. The risk of Americans transmitting the virus to others was very high.
But since the first vaccine was approved – on December 11 – the situation has changed.
Those who have been vaccinated with both doses, according to health authorities, can now travel at low risk, observing the relevant precautions. (As an aside, the travel ban could have been lifted about two months earlier, for those who had been vaccinated with both doses.) And, of course, as an extra security measure, there will be additional screenings at the airport in Athens.
The measure to ban Americans from entering Greece – and throughout Europe – was justified for one more reason: Initially, Greece controlled the transmission of the coronavirus much more effectively than the United States and most countries. So, it rightly forbade American visits.
Of course, Greece had no choice but to allow expatriates with Greek passports to enter the country. It could not shut the front door to its citizens.
Now, however, we are facing the following phenomenon: Greece continues to be closed – but can there be tourism with closed restaurants, etc.? What will the tourists do? Will they just stay in their hotel rooms?
Many travel agents are worried that at least half of the tourist season will be lost again this year if immediate measures are not taken, such as allowing outdoor dining at restaurants – especially now that the temperature is rising – something that the government is pushing for implementation anyway.
Of course, there is another extremely serious issue that needs to be addressed:
The tourist will not choose to visit a country only for its magnificent ancient monuments, the sun, and the sea. He/she also needs and wants to feel safe.
He/she will therefore choose to visit countries with a high rate of vaccination. Unfortunately, through no fault of its own, Greece is lagging in this respect. The European Union has failed the challenge of rolling out the vaccine in a timely fashion.
It is imperative that once vaccines are available, the countries in the EU must be fully prepared to move quickly to make up for the delay – and Greece appears to now be on the right path.
The country must win this battle. For the health of its citizens and for the sake of its economy.