Amid the startling beauty of the Aegean island of Santorini, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis opened this year’s summer tourism season as Europe slowly reopens its borders with a steadily improving Covid-19 situation, Xinhua reported.
“We are opening up to visitors, but we are doing it with your safety as our utmost priority. We have worked very hard to ensure our guests will be safe and stay healthy,” Mitsotakis told reporters.
“If at any stage we are faced with a localized outbreak, we have the medical and civil protection infrastructure in place to tackle it swiftly and effectively,” he said.
Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said at least 465 hospital beds including 19 intensive care unit beds will be available for coronavirus emergency use on the Greek islands, as a precautionary measure, Xinhua reported.
Tourism is a key economic pillar for Greece but Mitsotakis said the country expects only a fraction of the 33 million arrivals recorded in 2019.
International flights to the Athens and Thessaloniki airports resumed on Monday, Xinhua reported.
Arrivals from 29 countries with positive epidemiological data, including China, will undergo random coronavirus tests, while testing and at-least-one-day quarantine at a designated hotel are required for other travelers until June 30.
On June 5, the European Commission requested member states to have their borders reopened by July 1, Xinhua reported.
According to the latest report issued by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has passed its peak in all European Union (EU) countries except Poland and Sweden, with the current number of confirmed cases down 80%.
Greece reported a total of 3,112 infections as of Saturday, with 183 deaths. The country’s decision to open its tourism was among the latest moves in Europe towards normalization, Xinhua reported.
France said it will lift all traffic restrictions at its European internal borders on June 15 following a favorable development of the health situation in the country and Europe.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said in a statement: “This opening will be gradual and will vary according to the health situation in each of the third countries, and in accordance with the arrangements that will have been agreed at European level by then.”
Germany said it will, from June 16, allow EU citizens and Swiss nationals to enter unhindered, with a few exceptions. For example, controls for foreigners arriving by plane from Spain will not end until June 21, Xinhua reported.
While gradually returning to normal, European countries are pushing vaccine development in order to overcome the novel coronavirus and its economic fallout at an early date.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran announced that Europe’s Inclusive Vaccines Alliance (IVA) spearheaded by France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands signed an agreement with British drugmaker AstraZeneca to secure a supply to all EU countries of up to 400 million doses of a potential Covid-19 vaccine.
He said the first deliveries are expected by the end of this year, and that AstraZeneca plans to produce 2 billion doses to make it available to the world for no profit.