NEWS

Plan to lift flight bans, impose restrictions

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The government’s plan to contain the coronavirus to the greatest possible extent while keeping alive the country’s crucial tourism season foresees a gradual lifting of bans on flights from certain higher-risk countries alongside new measures to avert the spread of the virus, such as a ban on summer festivals. 

During a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Monday, it was decided that the so-called “panigyria” held by village communities to celebrate the feast days of patron saints, would be banned until the end of July. The events draw hundreds, sometimes even thousands, and are viewed by experts as particularly dangerous. 

Meanwhile authorities are tightening inspections at land borders. From Wednesday, border officials will only be allowing travelers with negative Covid-19 test results to enter the Promachonas border crossing with Bulgaria, while also increasing inspections at the Albanian border crossings of Kakavia and Krystalopigi. 

The additional checks have been decided due to a spike in infections related to tourism from the Balkans, government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters on Monday. In the first 11 days of July, authorities recorded four times as many positive coronavirus tests at the Greek-Bulgarian border crossing of Promachonas than at Athens airport, he said. 

Petsas also announced that Greece will allow direct flights from Britain and Sweden as of July 15 and July 22 respectively, and that it is even considering permitting arrivals from the United States at the end of the month, depending on developments with the pandemic and provided travelers can show a negative coronavirus test conducted up to 72 hours prior to their arrival. In the event that numbers spike again, the government is prepared to impose fresh restrictions, Petsas said. 

Of the 24 new Covid-19 cases reported on Monday, four were foreign travelers intercepted on arrival while three more tourists visited health centers after developing symptoms. The nationwide number of cases stands at 3,826, with deaths still at 193. 

A study carried out by Thessalonikis’s Aristotle University by Dimosthenis Sarigiannis of its chemical engineering faculty predicted a big rise in cases by the end of July if the government does not take more restrictive measures and sensitize the public into displaying more caution.

He warned of 5,200 cases by the end of July and 8,000 by mid-August.