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Politics

Tourists in Greece Will Be Safe After COVID-19, Minister Says

ATHENS – Still hoping to salvage some of the summer season, Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis said tourists who come to Greece when lockdowns aimed at preventing the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus are lifted will feel safe in spotless facilities.

Health protocols that will limit the number of clients in hotels and include social distancing and strict hygiene will be in place but he told the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that people boarding planes for international travel should be checked.

Theoharis said the plans are dependent on the virus not resurging although Greece,which imposed an early lockdown, had one of the best records in the world for holding down the number of cases and fatalities.

In the interview, Theoharis said the government’s proposal is for the coronavirus testing to take place in the country of origin so that tourists “already feel safe when they board the plane.”

The government’s plan to reopen the sector will be unveiled soon,  he told the paper. “We want a plan that will guarantee safety but will also be realistic. This combination is important so that everyone is able to feel good and relax,” he said.

“My mission is to prepare everything for the day when international travel will be allowed again. But if the experts tell us to take a step back, we will…We are planning the summer season on the condition that the situation continues to remain under control. We are not going to take unreasonable risks,” he added.

The European Union, which took weeks to react to the spread of the deadly virus, is still trying to decide if there should be uniform health measures but the bloc is notorious for being unable to come to conclusions and works slowly, as Theoharis said Greece is ready to move on its own elsewise.

That came as Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis proposed the creation of a “safe corridor” that will allow travel between countries which have successfully contained outbreaks.

Tourism in Greece is the biggest revenue engine, bringing in as much as 20 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 185.01 billion euros ($200.3 billion) and has had a record run of seasons luring nearly 33 million people in 2019.

Mitsotakis wants talks with other so-called safe countries, including Australia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Israel, Norway and Singapore, having teleconference meetings with his fellow leaders.

The discussions centered on exchanging experiences and ideas, particularly regarding measures for lifting restrictions on commercial activities as well as preparing for a possible return of the virus as it begins to wane down.

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