Greece hopes to open to tourists from 14 May
Country to welcome people who are vaccinated, have antibodies or negative Covid test, minister says
Greece hopes to reopen its doors to visitors on 14 May, the country’s tourism minister has said as he announced a much-awaited date for the tourist season to officially begin.
Haris Theoharis told the IBT Berlin tourism fair, the world’s largest, that Greece would after this date welcome anyone who had been vaccinated, had antibodies or had tested negative for coronavirus.
“We aim to open tourism by 14 May with specific rules and updated protocols,” he said. “Until then, we will gradually lift restrictions if conditions allow.”
Athens is in a race against the clock to kickstart a sector regarded as vital for the nation’s economy and has led calls for an EU-wide vaccination certificate to unlock holiday travel.
Despite initial reluctance, Brussels has slowly come round to the idea and on Tuesday the EU commission’s vice-president, Margaritis Schinas, said he believed the digital pass would be ready by the summer.
“I think after the last summit there is convergence on the need for this digital certificate,” the Greek politician told ERT, the state-run broadcaster, during a visit to Athens. “It will be a European product and will be the same throughout Europe.”
But Ursula von der Leyen, the commission’s president, has also warned about the dangers posed, legally and technically, in creating the certificate.
One in five Greeks works in tourism, the country’s biggest foreign earner. With arrivals drastically reduced because of the pandemic last year, the Greek government has said it is aiming this year to attract at least 50% of the 31.3 million people who visited prior to the virus.
UK tourists, the country’s second largest source market after Germany, are among those being courted by Athens with officials praising Britain’s accelerated vaccination drive. Anglo-Greek teams have been discussing how to facilitate a travel corridor with a commonly agreed digital pass, echoing a similar accord reached with Israel last month.
According to the UK government’s roadmap out of its third national lockdown, the earliest possible date for the resumption of international holidays is 17 May.
Theoharis said once elderly and vulnerable people had been vaccinated, it would begin inoculating employees in the tourism sector.
Everyone was in need of a holiday, he said, unveiling this season’s tourist slogan as: “All you want is Greece.”
The country has fared better than its EU counterparts in handling the pandemic although it has also failed to suppress a surge in coronavirus cases despite being in prolonged lockdown. Greece on Tuesday announced a record 3,215 new infections and 46 fatalities bringing the death toll to almost 7,000.
The Greek government has said it expects the country’s inoculation programme to accelerate dramatically in April when it takes stock of more than 2m doses of the Johnson & Johnson and Pzifer vaccine.