EU Health Agency Warns Against Travel To Popular Greek Islands

EU Health Agency Warns Against Travel To Popular Greek Islands

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) yesterday designated Greece ’s south Aegean islands dark red on its COVID-19 situation map, issuing a warning to other E.U. countries against non-essential travel to the region.

This follows a marked increase in infection among the group of 13 islands, which comprises some of the country’s most popular destinations for foreign tourism, including Mykonos , Santorini and Rhodes .

The dark red color designates very high-risk zones reporting a 14-day average of 500 or more new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people daily, and a combined testing and test positivity indicator of four percent or higher, according to ECDC data charts . Last week, Crete , Greece’s largest island and another tourism hotspot, was likewise downgraded by the ECDC to the dark red category.

Reuters reported that Greek Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias remarked later on Thursday that the islands of Mykonos and Ios were “one step” away from the point at which authorities would lay down restrictions. He also said that the epidemiological situations on the islands of Zakynthos, Tinos, Lefkada, Santorini, Paros and Rhodes are worrying.

Greece is highly dependent on tourism, with the sector typically accounting for about 20 percent of its GDP. It has understandably been at the forefront of the campaign to reopen E.U. borders, as its fellow European populations become increasingly vaccinated and look to make the most of their summer holidays.

The nation was looking to promote its "COVID-free" islands in hopes of recapturing some of the revenue usually generated by an influx of foreign visitors. After suffering what was almost a complete absence of tourism in the fallout of 2020’s global travel shutdown, Greece’s economy couldn’t afford to miss out on another year’s peak summer season.

The country reopened to international visitors on May 14 , with a provision that visitors could skip quarantine if they provide proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival. Many COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed, but some measures still remained in place, such as imposed capacity limits, social distancing, requiring masks and late-night curfews.

Greece enjoyed a strong June in terms of foreign arrivals, giving ministers and tourism officials cause for optimism. But, now, traveler turnout for the rest of the season seems uncertain. "We're waiting to see how the (tourist) markets will react," said Manolis Markopoulos, president of the hoteliers association of Rhodes, where more than 90 percent of visiting tourists come from abroad.

Europeans usually eagerly flock southward during the summer to enjoy such sun-drenched regions, so it remains to be seen how big of a deterrent the ECDC’s warning will prove. Britain and Germany are normally Greece’s largest source markets, though Germany designated it a risk area just this month and the U.K. has it listed as “amber”, requiring Britons who’ve traveled to the Hellenic Republic to quarantine upon their return.

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