Greece will begin accepting test-run flights from the UK next month, Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis told British media. He reiterated that Athens’ ambition remained to open up to holidaymakers from 14 May, border controls would also be relaxed in April when “some” airports were allowed to receive traffic from abroad.
“When I mentioned the May start date, I said we will gradually lift restrictions in an effort to test the temperature,” Theoharis told the Guardian, adding that because tourism was not “an on-off switch” preparatory moves had to be made.
“From sometime in mid-April we should be able to accept UK citizens, and those from other highly vaccinated countries, to test the new rules at a few entry points, not all 20 airports, but the ones most commonly used, such as Corfu, Heraklion in Crete, Athens and Thessaloniki.”
Theoharis announced the decision a day after the UK government unveiled a list of exemptions enabling people to leave the country if they had “reasonable excuses to travel”. The new restrictions come into effect on 29 March.
The centre-right government of the prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has championed the idea of an EU-wide “vaccination certification” to unlock travel.
Last month, Anglo-Greek teams initiated talks on facilitating a travel corridor between the two nations with a commonly agreed digital pass.
“The UK is our No 2 source market and so it’s very important for us,” Theoharis said, praising Britain’s accelerated vaccination drive.
Restarting tourism would send a signal that the world was able to return to some semblance of normality, he said.
On Tuesday, EU citizens who could prove they had been vaccinated, or had tested negative for the coronavirus, were able to fly into Greece without having to self-isolate, the Guardian reports.
Asked about British government officials warning against the risks involved in travel abroad, Theoharis said it was important to remember that the numbers of deaths and people being admitted into ICU wards was decreasing despite the increase in transmissions of Covid-19.
“Our scientists tell me with the vaccination programmes moving forward both in Greece and the UK, the weather helping as it did last year, and with all the restrictions in place limiting spread of the disease, things will be much better by mid-May,” he said.
On Monday the British government announced new Covid regulations that will ban international travel “without a reasonable excuse”, such as work, study, elite sports, medical reasons, caring for a vulnerable person or the wedding of a close family member.
The proposed rule changes mean that those who travel abroad in order to go on holiday could risk a £5,000 fine. (full story The Guardian)