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Greece clarifies policy, to allow tourists from all nations

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Greek officials said Saturday that the country will not limit arriving airline passengers next month to people coming from 29 countries but that travelers who departed from places that aren't on the initial list will be subject to mandatory testing for the coronavirus upon arrival and a quarantine period of one or two weeks.

The two-tiered policy, which revised information the Greek government issued Friday, will be applied during June 15-30, although officials left open the possibility of maintaining entry restrictions after the end of June.

High-ranking tourism ministry officials said the government needed to clarify the purpose of the 29-country list during the coronavirus pandemic, pointing to a statement posted on the Foreign Ministry's website. The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the issue was politically sensitive.

According to the officials and the foreign ministry document, a limited number of international flights will continue only being allowed to land at Athens International Airport until June 15. Per European Union policy, every arriving passenger must be tested for the virus and stay overnight at a designated hotel.

Visitors who test negative are required to self-quarantine for 7 days, while the ones who test positive must spend 14 days under a supervised quarantine.

Greece is taking steps to welcome more visitors in time for the summer vacation season. Starting June 15, international flights also can land in Thessaloniki, the country's second-largest city. Those from the 29 designated countries, the majority of them in Europe, will be subject to random tests.

Passengers from all other countries will have to continue getting tested, staying overnight at specific hotels, and quarantining for either seven or 14 days.

The 29 countries announced Friday are: Albania, Australia, Austria, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Estonia, Japan, Israel, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lebanon, New Zealand, Lithuania, Malta, Montenegro, Norway, South Korea, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Finland.

The list was drawn up based on a document from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency of airports worldwide “located in affected areas with high risk of transmission of the Covid-19 infection.”

Starting July 1, all Greek airports that can handle international traffic will reopen to flights from abroad. At that time, random screening for the virus will apply to all arriving passengers unless public health considerations dictate stricter testing, a tourism ministry official said.

Additionally, international arrivals by sea will also be allowed as of July 1, also  subject to random testing. Foreigners traveling by land also will be permitted to enter Greece from neighboring Albania, Bulgaria and North Macedonia – but not Turkey – and be subject to random testing.

“Greece at any stage retains the right to modify any of the above in light of changing circumstances,” the Foreign Ministry document states.

Greece imposed a lockdown early in its coronavirus outbreak, a move credited with limiting infections. The country had a total of 175 deaths and 2,915 confirmed cases as of Saturday. No cases have been detected on the vast majority of the Greek islands, which are popular vacation spots. 

Tourism and related industries make up around 20% of the Greek economy, and the government has been anxious to ensure the tourist season is not lost this year. According to the Tourism Ministry, 350,000 jobs depend directly on tourism, as many as double that number indirectly.

At this point “we are at point zero” concerning relaunching tourism traffic lost during the pandemic, a tourism ministry official told the AP, adding that it will take at least two or three weeks to see if bookings start to pick up.

The Foreign Ministry's Saturday announcement, with some FAQ's, in its entirety: 

Greece welcomes the world

Greece is ready once again to welcome the world. Here is how:

Phase 1 – Until 15 June

International flights are allowed only into Athens airport.
All visitors are tested upon arrival and are required to stay overnight at a designated hotel. If the test is negative, then the passenger self-quarantines for 7 days. If the test is positive, the passenger is quarantined under supervision for 14 days.

Phase 2 – Bridge phase- 15 June to 30 June

International flights are allowed into Athens and Thessaloniki airports.
If your travel originated from an airport not in the EASA affected area list (https://www.easa.europa.eu/SD-2020-01/Airports#group-easa-downloads), then you are only subject to random tests upon arrival.
If you originate from an airport on the EASA affected area list, then you will be tested upon arrival. An overnight stay at a designated hotel is required. If the test is negative then the passenger self-quarantines for 7 days. If the test is positive, the passenger is quarantined under supervision for 14 days.

Phase 3 – 1 July onwards

International flights are allowed into all airports in Greece.
Visitors are subject to random tests upon arrival.
Additional restrictions regarding certain countries will be announced at a later date.

In addition:

Land border arrivals from Albania, North Macedonia and Bulgaria will be allowed as of 15 June. Visitors will be subject to random tests upon arrival.
Arrivals by sea will be allowed as of 1 July. Visitors will be subject to random tests upon arrival.
Greece at any stage retains the right to modify any of the above in light of changing circumstances.

Frequent Questions and Answers

Q: The European Commission has recommended to member States to restrict non-essential travel from third countries until 15 June 2020. Is this applicable to Greece?
A: Yes. Non-essential travel from third countries to Greece is restricted until 15 June 2020.

Q: Until 15 June 2020, all travelers arriving in Greece undergo a compulsory Covid-19 test and a quarantine. Is this applicable to citizens of all countries?
A: Yes. All travelers, irrespective of nationality, including nationals of EU and Schengen Plus countries, are tested and quarantined. The same rules obviously apply to Greek citizens. If the test is negative, they are placed in a 7-day self-quarantine; if the test is positive, they are under monitored 14-day quarantine. The measures are for the protection of public health and are applicable to all travelers without discrimination.

Q: Are there direct commercial flights from international destination to all Greek airports?
A: Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, there have been direct international flights from many Schengen Plus airports. Until 15 June, international flights arrive only into Athens International Airport. As of 15 June, international flights resume at the Thessaloniki Airport and as of 1 July international flights resume to all Greek airports. Domestic flights have been allowed throughout.

Q: What will change on 15 June 2020?
A:  15 June inaugurates the gradual return to normalcy. Compulsory testing and quarantine will be limited only to travelers, irrespective of nationality, arriving from airports of affected areas with high risk of transmission of the Covid-19 infection, as assessed by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The list is constantly updated and travelers should check before traveling (https://www.easa.europa.eu/SD-2020-01/Airports#group-easa-downloads).
All other travelers will enter restriction-free and may be subject to random tests upon arrival.

Q: What will change on 1 July 2020?
A: All travelers will be subject to random tests upon arrival. Additional restrictions regarding certain countries will be announced at a later date.

Q: Is there a difference whether travel is direct or via transit?
A: No. The same rules apply whether travel is completed directly point-to-point or via transit.

[AP/Kathimerini]