Concerns mounted Tuesday about the potential repercussions of the coronavirus (Covid-19) on Greece’s economy and particularly on the tourism sector amid reports of cancellations by foreign visitors.
One hotelier alone on Tuesday reported cancellations by 17 groups as travelers changed their plans due to concerns about the virus’ spread in Europe. Smaller businesses have painted a similar picture, while several conferences have been called off.
Although the cancellations are not yet at a worrying level, bookings are lower than the same period last year. Experts estimate a 20 percent drop in the second quarter.
Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis said that the damage to the economy is not significant yet but authorities will be monitoring the spread of the virus and respond accordingly.
However, Greece’s Fiscal Council said the virus’ spread across Europe is likely to slow down the country’s budding economic recovery. A eurozone slowdown could reduce Greece’s growth rate to 2.21 percent or even 1.88 percent this year, it said.
Although the number of cases of coronavirus in Greece remained at seven on Tuesday, health authorities said they were planning their response to the second phase of the virus, aiming to avert its further spread.
Over the coming days, health authorities will shift their attention to people being treated for respiratory problems in the intensive care units who were not admitted as potential coronavirus cases, according to Sotiris Tsiodras, the head of the committee of experts on contagious diseases who is advising the government on its response to the virus.
He added that 270 people who have come into contact with the seven confirmed coronavirus cases will be submitted to tests.
According to Tsiodras, the country is still in “phase 1” of the Covid-19 epidemic, as only sporadic cases related to travel to affected areas have been reported so far.
However, measures are already being taken to address the second phase of the virus – namely, its spread through the community – with the closure of schools and the cancellation of traditional Carnival celebrations.
So far 30 schools have been closed temporarily as a precaution.