International flights will be able to head directly to tourist destinations in Greece from July 1, the country’s Prime Minister has announced.
The tourist season will restart on June 15 with the opening of seasonal hotels and the arrival of the first foreign visitors.
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”.
Mr Mitsotakis noted that Greece has “managed to restrict the spread of the virus”.
“We made our country an example to follow in the handling of the health crisis,” he said.
Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said a list of countries from which visitors will be able to arrive in Greece will be announced before the end of May.
The selection will be based on “epidemiological criteria” as determined by Greece’s committee of experts dealing with the pandemic.
Balkan and Baltic countries, Germany and regional countries such as Israel and Cyprus are expected to be in the first wave of those whose citizens will be allowed to enter Greece, he said.
Visitors from those countries will be able to fly into Greece initially only through Athens’ international airport as of June 15, Theoharis said, before direct international flights to the rest of the country’s airports resume on July 1.
Some countries, however, might be excluded, depending on the situation with their coronavirus outbreaks, the minister said.
Greece imposed an early lockdown amid the coronavirus outbreak, which has been credited with keeping the number of deaths 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 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 24 per cent to 13 per cent, 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.