Hopes to save part of tourist season – The country has recorded 2,620 cases of COVID-19 infections and 143 fatalities since the start of the outbreak
Athens.- (GreekNewsOnline, ANA, Reuters)
Movement restrictions, imposed in Greece on March 23 as part of a nationwide lockdown, will be gradually eased in the coming months, starting on Monday, May 4th. Some retail businesses, including hair salons and bookshops, will also open on Monday, while churches will open on May 14..
The lockdown in Greece to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, was very effective in avoiding high rates of fatalities seen in other European countries. Now Greece hopes a step-by-step revival of economic activity won’t trigger a new wave of infections. Most businesses have been hurt by the lockdown. The conservative government has promised to protect jobs in a country that has only just emerged from a decade-long debt crisis that wiped out a quarter of its economic output.
The Health Ministry’s coronavirus spokesman and infectious diseases professor Sotiris Tsiodras on Saturday evening announced 8 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Greece in the last 24 hours and three deaths. The Covid-19 infections total in Greece stands at 2,620.
There were three new death in last 24 hours so the total number of fatalities stand at 143 since the start of the outbreak while 37 patients are being treated in Intensive Care Units
As the government prepares to start easing restrictions on movement next week, Health Ministry spokesman Sotiris Tsiodras underlined the importance of wearing face masks in closed public areas to avert the spread of the coronavirus and said health authorities are working on an infomercial with instructions on how to make them.
The use of masks on public transport is particularly important, Tsiodras said, noting that the use of surgical masks is not necessary and home-made masks, made of either paper or fabric, are also effective, in line with European Center for Disease Prevention and Control guidelines.
As important as the use of a face mask is the regular washing of hands and social distancing, Tsiodras said.
The Greek police on Saturday said they had written out 59 fines for unauthorised movement outside the region of residence the previous day.
The violations of the ban on travel were recorded in the regions of Attica (41), Central Macedonia (9), in Thessaly (3), in Thessaloniki (2) one in Crete and one in Central Greece.
Fines of 300 euros were imposed for each of these violations, while police removed the number plates of 29 vehicles for 60 days. Since the start of this measure, a total of 1,486 violations of this type have been confirmed and an equal number of 300-euro fines imposed, while in 933 cases the vehicle number plates have been removed for 60 days.
At the same time, 867 fines of 150 euro were imposed throughout Greece on Friday for unnecessary movement outside the home. Specifically, there were 315 in Attica, 98 in Thessaloniki, 78 in Central Macedonia, 99 on Crete, 61 in Thessaly, 49 in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, 44 in Western Greece, 33 in the Peloponnese, 25 in the Ionian islands, 22 in the North Aegean, 14 in Epirus, 12 in Central Greece, 11 in South Aegean and 6 in Western Macedonia.
Since the beginning of the measure, on Monday, March 23, a total of 60,991 violations have been confirmed throughout Greece and an equal number of fines have been imposed.
Also, seven violations were confirmed for flouting the ban on the operation of stores and seven persons were arrested. Since the beginning of the measure, on Thursday, March 12, 559 violations have been confirmed across the country and 537 people have been arrested.
Greek police stressed that inspections continue with undiminished intensity, in order to protect public health.
Greece hopes to welcome back tourists from July, but hoteliers expect a bleak season, fearing the coronavirus pandemic will keep visitors away and beaches empty.
According to “Kathimerini”, the Prime Minister’s Office is almost ready to announce its integrated package for the revival of tourism which has been put together with the cooperation of the sector’s association and other competent ministers, as well as the health authorities.
On Friday Premier Kyriakos Mitsotakis led another video conference on the issue with participants including the ministers of tourism, Haris Theocharis, and state, Giorgos Gerapetritis, and the Health Ministry’s representative on Covid-19, Sotiris Tsiodras.
The plan, according to the latest information available, is built on four pillars. The first concerns the health issue and the rules of operation for the sector regarding both hotels and the markets from which the country may allow visitors when this is deemed safe. The second pillar has to do with supporting employment, the third concerns the measures for economically supporting a smooth tourism reboot, and the fourth covers compensating action: This is the entire set of actions that will offset as much as possible the losses that tourism enterprises have suffered as a result of the government’s decision to put tourism on ice.
Tourism is a major income earner for Greece. It drew 34 million visitors last year, bringing in 18 billion euros ($19.52 billion) in revenue, about 10-12% of economic output, and provided employment for about one in five of the workforce.
“Tourism is facing its biggest crisis of our generation,” said the president of Corfu’s hotel association Charalambos Voulgaris, owner of two resorts on the Greek island on the Ionian Sea.
Long stretches of beach, some dotted with rows of umbrellas, lie empty on Corfu and hoteliers like Voulgaris wonder whether they will open their doors this summer.
Passenger traffic plunged by as much as 90% for ferries, according to the Passenger Shipping Business Association, and by 59% percent for domestic and international flights in March, according to the Civil Aviation Authority.
“We are going to have very low occupancy rates. We don’t know if our hotels will open, when they will open, so we are right now on the brink of very hard times,” Voulgaris said.
Harry Theocharis, Greece’s tourism minister, says the plan is to welcome back tourists in July.
The government will begin to gradually ease the lockdown on May 4 and hotels operating year round will be able to open on June 1.
“I guess this is the million-dollar question. We are aiming to open up sometime in July,” Theocharis told Reuters TV.
“This season is not going to be like the other years, I would be a fool to believe that this could ever be the case. However, there is a lot that we can do to re-open the tourist economy, the flows,” he said.
In his intervention to Athens-Macedonian News Agency, Tourism Minister Haris Theocharis said that “road tourism will recover faster so the conditions must exist for the fast opening of the borders”. On the other hand, he underlined that the “road tourism is not the best kind of tourism so, we would not like this year’s tourism to be confine to this tourism”.
However, for the Tourism Ministry, road tourism is a priority for the markets of the Balkans and Theocharis pointed out that “we are forming the necessary health protocols for the road entrance gates to Greece and in parallel we are proceeding with all the necessary actions in order to make the tourist flows from the Balkans feasible. “Road tourism is a sector that may contribute in the support of the demand for the opening of the tourist market as well as to the extension of the tourist period in Greece” Theocharis underlined.