ATHENS — Almost ready to open to tourists in the midst of the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, Greece plans to lift a seven-day compulsory quarantine for visitors from the European Union and five other countries, including the United States and United Kingdom.
A source not identified told the financial news site Bloomberg that will happen April 19 although the New Democracy government said it wouldn’t open the country fully to tourists until May 14, for those who can show proof of being vaccinated or a negative test for the Coronavirus.
The government urgently wants to get tourism going again as it accounts for almost one-fifth of the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 167.27 billion euros ($200.3 billion) and draws more than 31 million people each year.
Tourism also is the biggest employer but was essentially shut down in 2020 as COVID-19 spread uncontrolled before vaccinations began and lockdowns that varied between being tough and lenient were imposed.
Revenue from the industry plunged by more than 76 percent when international travel ground to a near halt and people were afraid to go to other countries with the Coronavirus uncontained.
Besides EU residents and those from the US and UK, those from Serbia, Israel and the United Arab Emirates won’t face the prospect of being isolated but all must show proof of vaccination or a negative test, the report said.
But the UK still hasn’t said its residents were free to travel although the news is welcome to Americans, especially Greek-Americans, locked out in 2020 and eager to come back now.
“It’s a pilot opening, a mini pilot implementation of the green pass,” Aristotelia Peloni said, in reference to the EU adopting Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ idea of allowing travel with proof of not being infected.
“Visitors will be subject to the same restrictions as Greek citizens,” she said, which means wearing masks and keeping safe social distances but the early arrivals will find bars, restaurants and taverns closed and hotel restrictions.
Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis is also visiting Russia to meet with government officials ahead of this year’s tourism season, that country’s residents a big market for Greece too.
“We will be able to accept in Greece those travelers who have been vaccinated with the Russian Sputnik V vaccine,” Theoharis told news agency TASS, according to an emailed statement from the Greek ministry.