Greece is in a difficult situation – they need a great year of tourism this year after the abysmal one last year and with tourism providing so much for their revenue. But, the cases are not going down and hospitalizations are ticking up, even as they cross the 1 million vaccination number.
Greece’s Dilemma – Restricting More Movement While Planning for Tourists
Greece has made it quite public with the message that they fully plan on being open to tourists this summer. Last year was really bad with a drop of over 70% from the previous year. They have the benefit this year of having their elderly population having been vaccinated, familiarity and ease of testing on arrival, hotels that are ready for health protocols and more.
Lockdown Restrictions Being More Restricted
But, that does not mean that it is all going great in Greece right now. They have been in a lockdown since November 7 and this lockdown just got more restrictive for the areas classified as “deep red” zones. This applies to the following regions: Attica, Thessaloniki, Achaia, Arcadia, Larissa, Lefkada, Fthiotida, Argolida, Corinth, Thesprotia, Arta, Samos, Viotia, Chios, Aitoloakarnania, Rhodes, Iraklio, Evia and Kalymnos. The rest of the country is in “red” zone.
The increased restrictions have to do with the SMS system that Greece has had in place since the first lockdown almost a year ago. It involves sending a text message to 13033 that indicates one of 6 reasons that you are allowed to be out. These are:
- Going to a hospital or pharmacy
- Going to a supermarket/mini-market
- Going to a bank or public service office (for transactions not able to be done online)
- Helping elderly in need or escorting minors to/from school
- Going to a funeral (with attendance limits) – this has now been suspended for deep red zones
- Going for physical exercise or walking a pet
However, things have become much more restrictive now. As of yesterday, you can only go to a market within 2km of your residence or in your municipality. Going to help an elderly person is something that is more scrutinized now and going for exercise must be done on foot – you cannot drive or take a bus to another area for exercise.
This means that now, more than before, people are pretty much stuck in their homes or in their villages. The police presence has increased in some village areas to check for these movements as well. This all comes along with the curfew that exists – 9pm until 5am on weekdays (for the large cities) and 7pm until 5am on weekends.
Summer Tourism Season Coming Fast
This is all happening even as Greece hit 1 million vaccinated and also push through a new system to allow foreign nationals to get temporary government numbers for getting the vaccine as well. They still have over 90% left to vaccinate as well.
On the tourism/international front, Greece is trying very hard to make agreements with other countries to allow for Covid-passport travel, this includes Israel already. Greece is a major pushing force behind this adoption in the EU as well.
Greece is planning on opening up the country with flights from the US directly to Athens starting in as little as just 7 weeks from now – this while people living in Greece are restricted from basic movements beyond their villages. This obviously points to the desperation that Greece feels to make sure that tourists do feel comfortable enough to come to Greece and spend their pent-up tourist money in a country that could really use it.
With the restrictions likely not lifting before March 15 and Greece wanting to begin welcoming some tourists as early as April, this is a very difficult line to walk for the government.