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Greece changes mandatory PCR test for all travelers to “72 hours”

Greece’s government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said on Thursday that the PCR test for all travelers from abroad is to be carried out 72 hours. The statement created confusion as less than 12 hours before, the Health Ministry had announced that the PCR test must be of 48 hours before landing.

At the regular briefing on Thursday, Oikonomou said described “as emergency the measure of mandatory demonstration of a negative PCR 72 hours for all Greek and non-Greek travellers, who return to the country and have stayed abroad for more than 48 hours.”

He added that the measure will be in effect for the holiday season and was taken in order to delay the spread of the Omicron variant as well as to save time to increase vaccination coverage.

Oikonomou said that “there will be official announcements in due time, on weekly basis.”

No official press release was made on the change, however, TV channels clarified that the “72 hours” was not a slip of tongue as many thought but a change so that travelers have more time to plan.

So far no other change on the implementation time of the measure or any other change has been made known.

Citing government sources, state broadcaster ERT reports at 3 p.m. Thursday, that the PCR for travelers is a “temporary measure over the Christmas period.”

As we are still waiting for an official statement with details or at least the air directive (notam) by the Greek Civil Aviation Authority read what KTG wrote on Wednesday evening based on the Health Ministry announcement:

Greece Health Ministry announced on Wednesday evening that all travelers will have to show a mandatory negative PCR test. The measure affects all travelers, whether they are vaccinated against Covid-19 or not and independently of the country of departure.

Only exception is for travelers from Greece who have been in a foreign country for less that 48 hours.

The PCR test must have been carried out 48 hours before.

The measure goes into effect at 6:00 a.m. Sunday, December 19, 2021.

In a press release the Greek Health Ministry said that the measure is in the context of the effort to control the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.

Before expanding the measure to all travelers from all countries, the Health Ministry had reportedly announced that the mandatory PCR test would be for travelers from UK and Denmark only. An hour later, the Ministry decided to implement the measure to travelers form all countries.

Greece seems to follow the example of Italy that decided to implement the same measure mandatory PCR test a day earlier.

Governments seem horrified by the Omicron variant and Greece is among the first to take measures.

According to latest media information, another 5 cases of suspected Omicron variant have been detected in the country, bring the total number of Omicron infections to ten. More on a separate post.

Despite a recent stabilization of new infections, the number of Covid-related deaths and intubations remains alarmingly high.

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One comment

  1. The government faces a dichotomy. They want the test performed as close as possible to the time of travel, to minimise the risk of infection in the interval, but they need to leave enough time for the traveller to get the results.

    The problem with PCR tests is that the time from taking the swab to getting the result is variable. A few clinics, where the swab is taken, have bought their own PCR machines and can return a result in a few hours. This cannot be reduced because the test has to run for quite a long time before a result is obtained. Most clinics, however need to send the sample to a central lab. That causes a delay for delivery of the sample and the central labs may have a backlog when large numbers of samples are being processed.

    The Lateral Flow test, on the other hand, is performed on the spot and returns a result in a matter of minutes but the Lateral Flow test is less sensitive than the PCR test. It makes complete sense, therefore to specify a longer maximum interval for a PCR test than for lateral flow. The values of 72 hours for PCR and 48 hours for Lateral Flow have been typical throughout the pandemic. I was surprised when 48 hours was announced for the PCR test as a large number of travellers would simply not be able to achieve this.