Many Greeks were shocked on Wednesday to hear the country will open its gates to foreign visitors in three weeks, tourists who will not need to undergo a Covid-19 test or be placed in a 14-day quarantine as the measures have been so far.
On Thursday, head of Greece’s Civil Protection, Nikos Hardalias, tried to address the concerns concerns and assured that the government and the health authorities are working through with a detailed plan, regularly reviewed and revised as needed.
“We understand citizens’ concerns about tourism but there must be trust,” he said. “We still have 40 days ahead of us to get ready and to reliably guarantee that all safety standards are met.”
Hardalias stressed that travelers coming from abroad will continue to be quarantined for 14 days until May 21.
He added that the decision to lift this measure from that date is also based on the fact that from the 2,236 passengers who traveled to Greece between May 13 and 20, in 21 flights, only one was tested positive for coronavirus.
Is it a convincing argument?
Apparent not that much, as Greeks keep expressing their concerns on social media. Some wondered about the purpose of the 2-month lockdown.
Λίγο εως πολύ παράξενο να κλειδαμπαρώνεις 11.000.000 Έλληνες σε καραντίνα τόσο καιρό με τόσο αυστηρά μέτρα και από την άλλη να λες στον τουρίστα έλα δίχως τεστ και να τον υποδέχεσαι με ανοιχτές αγκάλες. Κάτι δεν (μου) κολλάει.#διαγγελμα#τουρισμος
— Panagiotis Balalas (@PBalalas) May 21, 2020
“What I understand is that the government will import the heard immunity,” posted someone.
#Τσιοδρας #τουρισμος #σχολεια #coronavirus #covid19Gr #pandemicpantry #pandemic Εγώ αυτό που κατάλαβα είναι ότι από 1 Ιουνίου η #κυβερνηση_Μητσοτακη μας εισάγει στην ανοσία της αγέλης. Ακριβώς αυτό που εγκατέλειψαν η Αγγλία και ΗΠΑ.
— ΦΩΤΕΙΝΗ Μ (@fmou611) May 21, 2020
Some even created a small Twitter poll when the plan was announced last evening:
Entrance into the country without test is: Right – Necessary – Careless – Wrong (41.1%)
Είσοδος στην χώρα χωρίς τεστ
— (((Phroexus))) (@phroex) May 20, 2020
Hardalias reassured that random tests will be conducted to tourists arriving with flights from abroad.
Asked whether there will be an infections increase following the tourism opening, spokesman for the National health Organization and Professor for Infectious Diseases, Sotiris Tsiodras, appeared cautious and said, he cannot 100% guarantee this.
He drew attention to the fact that the spread of the virus was high in bars, cruise ships and (ski) resorts.
According to the government plan announced on Wednesday, international flights will resume on June 15 yet from countries with good epidemiological data and only to the Athens airport. On July 1 directs flights form abroad will be allowed to all touristic destinations in the country – more details here.
On Thursday evening, health authorities announced 3 new confirmed cases and 2 more deaths. Total infections stand at 2,853, death toll at 168.
22 patients are intubated in hospitals Intensive Care Units, a total of 98 have been discharged from the ICUs.
144,078 tests have been conducted since the outbreak in late February.
Only one positive case between 13 and 20 May. That ONE case could have decimated a whole island that is unprepared to cope with a pandemic and, possibly, did not even have a health centre in which to isolate and treat the patient.
As I have said elsewhere, I hope I am wrong and will apologise to the Greek Government for maintaining a virus free country up to 31 December.
Unfortunately, if I am wrong, an awful lot of coffins wil be needed by the end of the year !!
I am observing the Greek Corona situation from the distant Austria. On one hand, I am baffled by the low number of deaths: 1,7 per 100,000 people is the lowest in Europe, if not the world. On the other hand, and against this background, I am baffled when I read that Greeks are extremely concerned about the Corona risk. Particularly about the opening for tourism. From the distance, that concern appears unproportional when comparing deaths from other causes. I have tried to find statistics about abortions in Greece. A 2015 article in the Ekathimerini cites that abortions were running at an annual rate of 300,000, up from 200,000 10 years earlier. Let me put this into perspective: every day the number of abortions is about 5 times as high as total cumulative casualties from Corona so far.
When my Greek wife talks to her friends in Greece on the phone, they tell her that they totally oppose a relaxation of the restrictions. Certainly for tourists. The tourists should stay where they are and not come to Greece, they say. That’s understandable, I tell my wife. Her friends are all retirees and have no economic risk whatsoever. And then I remind of her 2 nephews and 1 niece. All 3 are self-employed and have family. The niece is a hairdresser, one nephew is a civil engineer and the other one has an earth moving business. I tell my wife that her friends should not only think about themselves but also about the many others who are facing the potential destruction of their economic existence because of the restrictions. Which reminds me that one could also look up the annual rate of suicides during the Euro crisis.
I say to all Greeks, DO NOT relax your guard against this virus. So far your measures have been exemplary. As an island nation, we, the UK allowed frredom of movement and look where we are now. 36,000 dead. I like many, want to holiday in Greece as i have done for 36 years but do not want this pandemic to overwhelm Greece. I understand tourism is a major financial benefit to your country but it is not worth the cost in lives that will ensue if you drop your guard. The only hope is a vaccination that works. Until then, stay safe and hopefully this nightmare will en very soon..