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Greece welcomes foreign visitors, restarts summer tourism

An employee wearing a protective mask walks on the beach of the Divani Apollon Palace hotel, on the first day of the opening of hotels in Greece, following a nationwide lockdown against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Athens, Greece, June 1, 2020. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Greece reopened its main airports to more international flights on Monday, hoping to kick-start its vital tourism sector after three months in lockdown.

Tourism employs about 700,000 people and accounts for some 20% of Greece’s economic output, so how the sector fares is significant for the country’s recovery. Greece emerged from a decade-long debt crisis two years ago.

About 33 million tourists visited the Mediterranean nation last year, generating revenues of 19 billion euros.

Passengers arriving from airports deemed high-risk by the European Union’s aviation safety agency will be tested for the coronavirus and quarantined up to 14 days, depending on the test result. Restrictions remain for passengers from Britain and Turkey. Arrivals from other airports will be randomly tested.

Restrictions on movement imposed in March helped Greece contain the spread of COVID-19 infections to just above 3,000 cases, a relatively low number compared with other EU countries. But it brought the economy to a standstill.

The conservative government now faces the tough task of opening the country to foreign visitors while allaying public concerns about a new virus outbreak.

From the picturesque island of Santorini, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told reporters on Saturday that his priority is to make Greece the safest destination in Europe.

“You can come to Greece, you will have a fantastic experience, you can sit on a veranda with this wonderful view, have your nice Assyrtiko wine, enjoy the beach,” Mitsotakis said, with a stunning sunset in the background.

“But we don’t want you crowded in a beach bar… There are a few things that we won’t allow this summer.”

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