Brits will be able to holiday in Greece without quarantine

Henry Samuel
Tourist sites in Greece such as the Acropolis have recently reopened as the nation eases its lockdown -  LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP

Britons will be able to holiday in Greece "without quarantine" from certain UK airports, its tourism minister confirmed on Monday as the country reopened hotels, open-air cinemas and golf courses amid a Europe-wide scramble to cash in on the crucial summer tourist season.

Last week, Greece appeared to slap a nationwide ban on flights from Britain, which sends four million tourists per year to the popular summer destination, after leaving the UK off its“white list” of 29 nations with better than average Covid-19 infection records.

On Monday it confirmed that this had been a “misunderstanding” and British holidaymakers will be allowed to visit as early as mid-June. However, screening will be more or less strict depending on which airport they fly from.

Greece has pledged to “welcome the world” to visitors starting from June 15, when it will resume flights to the country’s two main airports - Athens and Thessaloniki. Others will be reopened to international flights starting from July 1.

During this “bridge phase”, it will accept travellers from airports deemed high-risk by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) but they will be subject to systematic testing and possible quarantine.

The EASA “blacklist” currently contains 13 British airports, including Gatwick, Heathrow and Manchester.

“Tourists originating from airports listed on EASA are obliged to be tested once they land in Greece and remain at a designated hotel for one day,” said tourism minister Harry Theoharis.

He added: “If the test turns out negative, these visitors will then be obliged to observe a seven-day quarantine. If their sample is positive, they will remain in a 14-day quarantine and their health will be monitored.”

However, passengers flying to Greece from UK airports not on the EASA blacklist will only be subject to random testing and will not have to undergo any form of quarantine, unless they test positive for the virus, he confirmed.

“There are already UK airports from which, after June 15, visitors may come to Greece without going through quarantine,” Mr Theoharis told the Telegraph.

Current UK airports in the clear include London Southend, Bristol and Edinburgh.

He said the EASA list would be renewed weekly in the run-up to flights resuming on June 15.

“To give you an example: if the airport of Edinburgh is not on EASA’s list -as is the case today- then we’ll follow the “lighter” protocol of test sampling.

‘If Heathrow is on EASA’s list -as is the case today- then we’ll follow the strict protocol which mandates full testing for all passengers and at least a night of quarantine until the results come in. Then, if the test is negative, the visitor may go on with self-containment for seven days and if it is positive, quarantine is extended for 14 days.’

”We have an open line with Britain to inform them of the way our country is deciding to open its tourist sector to the rest of the world,” he said.

“I would consider it a positive step if at some point the UK lifted the restrictions on visitors returning from Greece to the UK.”

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With tourism accounting for a quarter of its GDP, Greece is racing to reopen after successfully containing the pandemic with early draconian restrictions.

On Monday, the country authorised year-round hotels to reopen, although many chose to remain shut until closer to the start of the tourism season, citing low bookings.

Primary schools were reopened, as were public swimming pools, campsites, wedding reception services, tattoo parlours and dating agencies.

Elsewhere, in Europe, France’s bars, cafes and restaurants are due to reopen on Tuesday in a major boost to national morale after three months in the gastronomic doldrums. Customers must remain a metre apart and no more than 10 per table. However, venues in Paris can only serve in outside terraces until June 22.

Spain plans to welcome foreign visitors from July 1, despite prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, announcing he will ask parliament to agree to a two-week extension of the state of emergency lockdown, until June 21.

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In Portugal, beaches in the Algarve will reopen on June 6, the region's tourist board announced on Monday. Visitors from different households will be expected to keep 1.5metres apart, with parasols kept three metres from each other, while all beaches will be colour-coded by capacity on a new app.

Quickest off the mark has been Montenegro, the first country in Europe to declare itself "coronavirus-free," which started letting in foreign tourists as of Monday as it seeks to salvage the tourism season following the virus outbreak.

The tiny Adriatic state's authorities have listed 131 countries whose citizens can enter without any restrictions. There is a catch, however. They must have at most 25 active Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people.