Greece’s tourism appeal is no secret, but with most of us still in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, the idea of spending our summer there can only be a distant dream.
Or maybe not, say Greek officials.
The Mediterranean nation appears to be a rare coronavirus success story.
By enforcing a strict and early lockdown, the country has managed to keep deaths incredibly low — just around 150 so far.
This week, some businesses like hairdressers and bookstores were allowed to re-open for the first time.
And the country’s pragmatic prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, thinks it may, ever so cautiously, be a model for welcoming back some travelers this summer.
“The tourism experience this summer may be slightly different from what you’ve had in previous years,” Mitsotakis told CNN’s Nic Robertson when they sat down — socially distanced — in his office this week.
“Maybe no bars may be open, or no tight crowds, but you can still get a fantastic experience in Greece — provided that the global epidemic is on a downward path.”
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New travel protocols
Opening up to tourism inevitably means opening the country up to people potentially carrying the virus, but Mitsotakis hopes current testing regimes can be enhanced to reduce the risk.
At the moment, every international traveler is screened for Covid-19 upon arriving in Athens.
Before CNN’s reporting team even landed in Athens this week, we were asked to complete a form on our flight from Zurich with all our personal information, as well as our seat number — presumably to allow authorities to trace close contacts should someone onboard test positive.
Upon landing in Athens, we were immediately herded into a room where everyone’s throat was swabbed and catalogued.
We got our results back less then 12 hours later (negative, thankfully).
Mitsotakis is hoping for something much more comprehensive. He wants international, or at least European, standards that set the same travel protocols for all countries.
“I would assume that people will be tested before they get on a plane, not after they arrive here.
“They can only get on the plane with a negative test, or with a positive antibody test,” he said.
If all goes to plan, he hopes the country can start welcoming tourists by July 1.