Greece’s long-awaited tourist season will begin on June 15 with the opening of seasonal hotels, while international flights will be able to head directly to tourist destinations from July 1.
In a televised address to the nation, Prime Minister Kyriakos 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”.
It follows announcements this week that Italy plans to open its borders to tourists from June 3, while Spain could allow the return of holidaymakers from the end of June.
Mr Mitsotakis noted that Greece has “managed to restrict the spread of the virus”, adding: “We made our country an example to follow in the handling of the health crisis.”
His 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 number of confirmed cases to 2,850 in the country of nearly 11 million.
But the lockdown has dealt a severe blow to Greece’s economy, which has barely emerged from a brutal decade-long financial crisis that saw a quarter of gross domestic product wiped out. Tourism is a vital part of the economy, and authorities have been anxious to ensure the entire summer season is not lost.
More than 34 million visitors travelled to Greece last year, spending 18.2 billion euros, according to central data.
“Let us face reality with courage: April and May was the nadir of tourism,” Mr Mitsotakis said. “So whatever we achieve this year will be a profit.”
Mr Mitsotakis also announced a reduction in consumer taxes on transport from 24pc to 13pc, which will lead to cheaper boat, plane and bus tickets during the tourist season, as well as a cut on tax on coffee, soft drinks and open-air cinema tickets.
When can I travel from Ireland?
Holidays from Ireland are a non-runner until the lifting of official advice against "non-essential travel" and a relaxation of restrictions confining people to within 5km, and subsequently 20km, of their homes to July 20.
Quarantines, screening and health protocols all remain to be worked out before travel resumes, and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said it could be "months rather than weeks" before non-essential air travel returns.
- Pól Ó Conghaile
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