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Covid: Greece ends lockdown measures and opens to tourists

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image captionA number of tourist flights arrived in Crete on Friday morning as restrictions eased

Greece has launched its tourist season, lifting most remaining restrictions on movement and declaring “we are putting the lockdown behind us”.

Although an average of 2,000 daily Covid cases are still being reported, vaccinations are being rolled out with the Greek islands as a priority.

German tourists have begun flying in, but Britons will not as Greece is not on the UK government’s “green list”.

Holidaymakers from the UK will be able to travel to Portugal from Monday.

Greece still has several restrictions. However, the big changes are that residents no longer have to send text messages to a hotline whenever they leave their homes or go shopping, movement is allowed between regions, and a night-time curfew has now been limited to between 00:30 and 05:00.

A fifth of Greece’s economy is seen as dependent on the tourism sector and 20% of workers are employed by it. “We are opening our tourist industry to the world,” Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis announced on Thursday evening in front of the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion outside Athens.

What tourists have to do

Visitors from a list of 53 approved countries have to fill in a passenger locator form (PLF) the day before they travel, listing where they are staying and supplying a vaccine certificate, a negative PCR test or a documentation of recent recovery from Covid.

The rules are a precursor to the EU-wide digital certificate that is scheduled to help free up travel by the end of June.

Flights from several German airports, including Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, Hanover and Stuttgart, landed at Heraklion airport in Crete on Friday morning. Travel giant Tui said it was resuming flights to Kos, Rhodes and Corfu on Saturday and the rest of Greece next month.

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image captionThis beach near Heraklion was quiet on Friday as the tourist season began

Charter flights were also landing at Rhodes, mainly from Poland and Israel.

Greece had hoped that British tourists would be able to start flying in from 17 May, but Greece has been placed on the UK’s “amber list”. The UK Foreign Office advises against “all but essential travel to Greece, except for the islands of Rhodes, Kos, Zakynthos, Corfu and Crete”. Anyone returning to England or Scotland has to quarantine for 10 days.

The government in Athens has launched a glossy video showing a selection of prospective tourists dreaming of escaping to the sun for a natural tan and tasting “real food”, with the message “all you want is Greece”. The campaign is described as the national tourism organisation’s biggest campaign in a decade.

How is Greece opening up?

Friday was also an important day for Greek tourists, as it marked their first chance to travel to the islands since November.

The port of Piraeus near Athens was described as busy, as people headed away from the mainland with the required green pass to travel. Museums were also opening across Greece for the first time in six months, although numbers were being limited. In shops one customer is allowed per 25 sq m (269 sq ft).

image copyrightEPA

image captionAthens’ national archaeological museum was open to visitors again on Friday

So far one in four Greeks have received a first vaccination, and the Greek government is accelerating its campaign on dozens of islands, particularly tourist destinations.

Ministers say 32 smaller islands have completed their programmes and dozens more with populations of up to 10,000 will be vaccinated by the end of May. Residents on the biggest islands will be given the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine by the end of June, officials say.

What about Portugal?

Travellers from England and Scotland are to be allowed to go on holiday in several countries from Monday without having to quarantine when they return, including Portugal, which extended its state of calamity on Thursday to 30 May.

The government in Lisbon said anyone arriving would need to take a negative PCR test before departure.

Some 12,000 Chelsea and Manchester City fans are to fly into Portugal on 29 May to see their teams in the European Champions League final in Porto.

The supporters will be subject to a series of Covid restrictions, flying in and out on the same day in a “bubble situation”. Fans will have to pass through a separate airport zone and take a negative Covid test.

media captionEU plans for a ‘vaccine passport’ to allow travel

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