Greece said Friday it would reopen its airports in Athens and Thessaloniki to arrivals from 29 countries from June 15, the start of the tourist season.
Visitors would be allowed to fly into Greece from 16 EU countries, including Germany, Austria, Denmark, Finland, the Czech Republic, Baltic countries, Cyprus and Malta, the tourism ministry said in a statement.
But countries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic — such as France, Spain, Britain, and Italy — were not on the list. Outside the European Union, holidaymakers from Switzerland, Norway, and neighbouring Balkan countries such as Albania, Serbia, and North Macedonia will be allowed to land at Greece’s main airports from June 15.
The list also includes Australia, Japan, Israel, Lebanon, China, New Zealand, and South Korea. The ministry said that further countries could be added before July 1 when the country’s regional airports also reopen.
“The list has been drawn up on the basis of the epidemiological profile of each country,” taking into account the recommendations of the European Aviation Safety Agency and a report by Greece’s commission for infectious diseases, the statement said.
Greece began the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions on May 4 and will start reopening its hotels next month. It has been less severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic that many EU countries, with 175 deaths and 2,906 infections officially registered so far.
Greece will restart its tourism season on June 15 in a key boost to the economy after the virus lockdown, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Wednesday, adding that international flights would resume on July 1.
Speaking Wednesday in a televised address to the nation, Mitsotakis said visitors would be subject to sample coronavirus testing and “our general health protocols will be adhered to, without them, however, overshadowing our bright sun or the natural beauties of Greece.”
With Greece suffering fewer than 170 COVID-19 deaths over two months into the pandemic, Mitsotakis said the country’s prompt response to the virus would be a “passport of safety, credibility and health” to attract visitors.
Tourism Minister Harry Theocharis said a list of nations resuming flights to Greece would be announced by the end of May, noting that Athens would focus on reviving a travel front “from the Balkans to the Baltic.”
Bulgarians and northern Europeans including Germans will be among the first visitors, the minister said, in addition to Israelis and Cypriots.
Incoming travelers will not be required to undergo virus testing or quarantine, but sample tests will be carried out in tourist areas, the minister said.
Theocharis added that 600 beds would be specifically set aside for coronavirus care on Greek islands.
Tourism is a vital part of the economy, contributing more than 10% of GDP, and authorities have been anxious to ensure the entire summer season isn’t lost.
Mitsotakis’ government imposed a lockdown very early in Greece’s outbreak, which has been credited with keeping the number of deaths and critically ill people at very low levels.
On Wednesday, health authorities announced one new death and 10 new confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of dead to 166 and the total confirmed cases to 2,850 in the country of nearly 11 million people.