Greece has lifted quarantine requirements for vaccinated travelers and those testing negative for Covid-19 from key tourism markets, including Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States, in what officials called “baby steps” on the road back to normality.
First Move’s Julia Chatterley spoke to Harry Theoharis, Greece’s tourism minister, Tuesday.
A lot of countries grappling with how to handle tourism. Greece being bold about this.
Theoharis: Well, yes. Up to a point. It’s a complete system that has five levels of protection for everyone. This is not just about the vaccination, it’s about testing before you leave in case you’re not vaccinated. It’s about targeted testing when you arrive and of course isolation if you or your family — if you are positive. It’s protocols, masks, other things that we are used to by now. You have to keep social distancing, etc.
If you’ve been vaccinated with the Chinese vaccine, if you’ve been vaccinated with the Russian vaccine, does that still qualify for entry?
Theoharis: Yes, it does qualify for entry. It effectively means that you can skip the pre-departure test that you have to perform otherwise. That’s the difference between vaccinated and non-vaccinated.
Even though those vaccines aren’t approved or authorized in Europe, Greece is saying, “Look, it’s good enough for us?”
Theoharis: It’s good enough for the risk-based approach we’re taking. The risk-based approach is on an individual basis and not on a regional basis or a country basis so we’ve weighed in with our doctors. Based on our health experts’ advice, the risk is minimal.
Greece is trail blazing here. A lot of nations are struggling to decide how to rock-break. Help us understand the rules that will apply to tourists.
Theoharis: A tourist’s life is as important to us as a citizen’s life. The same rules that are in force [for Greek citizens] will apply to everyone. We do not discriminate in any way whatsoever. So it’s important that people understand this. We are hoping things will be more and more liberalized as the vaccination programs throughout the world progress. Even if we have changes in the other direction, those changes will apply to everyone.
What’s it going to be like as a tourist?
Theoharis: Well, let me say, by the 14th of May where we were going to have the formal opening of tourism season, restaurants will be open, especially outdoor parts of the restaurants. We already have the other sides open. People have to wear masks. This is not a normal summer. Those restrictions still apply. You can still enjoy the outside. You can do hiking. You can enjoy the beach where you don’t need to wear a mask. You can enjoy those things, but we still need to keep your distance. We still need to be, you know, cautious about how we move about.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic continues, Greece says it is open for tourism.