Dear guests and friends,
Today is a good day!
There is no question that 2020 started with a bang testing everyone's reflexes and professionalism. The good news is that the worst is over, nationally at least and hopefully globally as well.
As the summer approaches there is a key question on many people’s minds: “When will I be able to travel Crete and Greece again?”
Hereby, we will seek to provide the most up-date-information about the situation in Crete, Greece and developments regarding tourism and international travel to the country. But please note that the situation is likely to remain fluid for the coming weeks, depending on the course of the epidemic in the country
Crete and Greece is currently ranked as one of the safest destinations in Europe, with high testing numbers, low confirmed cases and even lower casualties. Our health authorities closely monitor the situation and new case expectations for the following weeks are approaching zero.
The good news ....
The Greek government has announced that the tourism period will begin on June 15 in Greece, when seasonal hotels will be allowed to open their doors again. Free travel to the islands will also be permitted (perhaps even earlier), thus allowing domestic tourism to fully resume.
As for international tourism, in a May 20 address, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis confirmed that international flights will gradually resume to tourist destinations in Greece from July 1.
At least initially, the reopening of Greece to international tourism will concern tourists from EU member states and the Schengen Area, as well as other individual countries with which agreements have been reached, such as Israel.
Speaking after the prime minister’s announcements, the minister of tourism Harry Theocharis provided more detail; he said the first tourists will be from countries where epidemiological data is encouraging such as the Balkans (in particular Bulgaria) and countries in northern Europe, such as Germany.
Open but with new measures ...
It will, of course, not be business entirely as usual in the Greek islands and other holiday destinations this summer. Everything from hotels, restaurants and open-air cinemas to flights and ferry boats will operate under new rules to allow for social distancing.
Covid-19 tests will not be required for all travelers coming to Greece. However some air travelers will be subject to spot tests by health officials.
Theoharis said authorities will also boost the healthcare capacity of several tourist destinations by providing tests and doctors, as well as an operational plan for the handling of possible infections (a hotel doctor, quarantine areas and transfer to a health facility).
Many businesses including hotels, open-air cinemas, beach clubs, restaurants etc. will operate at lower capacity to prevent overcrowding. This may affect the cost of some services as businesses seek to offset the lost income.
However these will be dampened by tax cuts and economic measures designed to support the tourism industry and employment. These include lowering the VAT in public transport fares, open-air cinema ticket prices and coffee and non-alcoholic beverages to 13 percent from 24 percent from June 1 until October 31.
What are the measures to contain the virus currently in effect in Greece?
As of May 4, the government began to loosen the lockdown measures, with businesses reopening (with new rules to protect public health) and restrictions loosened on domestic travel.
May 4 – Small non-essential businesses including hair salons, bookstores, florists, etc are permitted to reopen (with the use of masks required for employees and customers, as well as other social distancing requirements). Citizens are allowed to move about freely, but only within their prefecture of residence. Churches are also allowed to reopen but only for individual worship – the numbers of worshipers must be limited and services are prohibited.
May 11 – Remaining retail shops are permitted to open, following the above social distancing rules. High schools reopen for senior students sitting national exams this summer.
May 16 – Beach clubs are allowed to open, however with new rules for their operation. The public can also make use of free beaches and coastline, although are advised to respect social distancing guidelines.
May 17-18 – Archaeological sites are reopened, as are zoos and botanical gardens, although performances and congregations remain banned. Refreshment and snack bars are scheduled to open on May 25. High schools reopen for all students. Churches are allowed to resume services (with new rules limiting the number of worshipers). Citizens are able to travel freely on the mainland (as opposed to being restricted to their prefectures) by car, train and domestic flights. Travel is also freely permitted to Evia and Crete. However travel to all other islands remains restricted to residents and workers.
June 1 – Cafés and restaurants are allowed to reopen for sit-in dining (throughout the crisis they have been able to remain open but only for takeaway and delivery). However diners will be restricted to outdoor seating areas and new social distancing rules will apply (2 meters between tables and up to 4 people per table). Malls also reopen. Open air cinemas will open with max capacity reduced to 40%. Hotels that operate year-round (as opposed to seasonal hotels) will also be allowed to reopen (with new rules and guidelines).
June 15 – The tourism season begins with the resumption of domestic tourism. Seasonal hotels reopen, and citizens will be permitted to travel freely to the islands. Seasonal hotels will also reopen from June 15. Museums will also open with new limits for visitor limits.
July 1 – Direct international flights to all Greek airports restored
Note that all of the above dates are subject to change, depending on the course of the epidemic in the country. Any potential resurgence of the virus will lead to delays and possibly reversals of the above measures.
What are the statistics in Greece with regards to the coronavirus?
In early March, while infections and deaths from the COVID-19 coronavirus were still very low, the Greek government imposed a lockdown on the country, closing all but essential businesses, and restricting travel to and within the country.
The swift and decisive imposition of these measures, and the fact that they were faithfully observed by the vast majority of Greek citizens, has seen the country emerge as one of the “success stories” of the pandemic, with one of the lowest infection and death rates in Europe.
As of May 19, there were a total of 2,840 confirmed cases of COVID-19 recorded in the country and 165 deaths. New confirmed cases are currently hovering at less than 10 per day (on May 19 there were 4 new cases, and 0 new deaths).
Importantly, more than two weeks after the first loosening of Greece’s lockdown restrictions, there has not been any significant uptick in cases, allowing the government to move ahead with its plans to reopen the tourism economy.
Last updated: 23/05/2020