As Greece prepares to reopen for foreign visitors in a bid to get its crucial tourism sector back on its feet , the government said Friday that flights from coronavirus hotspots such as Britain would not be allowed in, at least for now .
Tourism minister Harry Theoharis said that while regular international passenger flights would be allowed to take off and land again at the airports of Athens and Thessaloniki starting from Monday , the ban on arrivals from Britain will remain in place until July 1 .
“Our goal is for Greece to remain a safe country , looking forward to the tourism season ,” said health minister Vassilis Kikilias .
Greece has fared much better than other European countries in the COVID – 19 pandemic. It locked down in March and has recorded fewer than 190 coronavirus deaths among its 11 million residents .
By contrast , Britain has seen more than 40 ,000 deaths and is the worst -hit country in Europe .
But with tourism accounting for 20 per cent of its gross domestic product and international travel virtually coming to a standstill as a result of the global lockdowns , Greece has been hard hit by the pandemic ’s economic fallout .
Keen to market itself as a healthy holiday destination, Greece is reopening only gradually .
Following the airports of Athens and Thessaloniki next week , regional and island airports will open on July 1 and ports also remain closed to ferries until then .
– Quarantine for some –
Greece said it will quarantine travellers for seven to 14 days from areas hardest- hit by the virus, as identified by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency ( EASA ) .
Non -essential overland travel will still be restricted Monday at borders with Turkey , North Macedonia and Albania, the government said .
All access to and from Bulgaria is permitted .
The health minister said an emergency network and additional resources had been put in place to cover dozens of Greek islands that are among the country ’s most popular destinations .
The government has set aside nearly 450 beds for COVID -19 cases on the islands , and has hired nearly 700 additional health staff , Kikilias said .
All – year hotels already reopened for business two weeks ago , and seasonal hotels and museums are to follow on June 15 . Both staff and guests will be subject to regular tests .
Rooms have also been set aside to quarantine anyone testing positive for the virus , and each hotel has to have a contracted physician on call.
In 2019, Greece posted a record year with over 34 million visitors , but operators say a realistic goal for this season is for up to a third of that number .