Dozens of small Greek islands are becoming Covid-free as the vast majority of their residents have now been vaccinated, allowing them to prepare to welcome tourists as soon as possible this summer.
Almost all islanders — in every age bracket — on Greek islands with populations of less than 1,000 have now been vaccinated against Covid-19.
Larger vacation destinations such as Mykonos, Santorini and Corfu will be targeted once the residents of Greece’s smaller islands have been vaccinated.
In contrast, in the rest of the country, only people over 60 years of age are currently on the vaccination schedule.
But as Greek Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis explains, “If you’re going to send a medical team to an island with a small population, it makes sense to vaccinate not just the elderly and vulnerable, but everyone.”
Kastellorizo is now 100 percent Covid-free
Kastellorizo, a remote Aegean island archipelago only a few kilometers from the Turkish coast, has successfully inoculated almost all of its 300 residents against Covid-19.
Kastellorizo Deputy Mayor Stratos Amygdalos told Greek Reporter that the swift inoculation program has already helped the islanders significantly.
“We are a remote island with a weak health system and vaccination helped boost our morale. Before that, we felt insecure if a single case of Covid appeared,” he says.
“Anyone can see that there is more optimism around the island, people are more relaxed, but they are worried about developments in mainland Greece,” Amygdalos added.
All Kastelloriozo residents who have been vaccinated have obtained a certificate of vaccination. Only a few expected to receive their final dose on Saturday.
Nevertheless, the people of Kastellorizo are still strictly abiding by the government measures against the spread of Covid-19.
“We still follow the rules. Everybody is wearing a face mask and shops close at 9 pm,” Amygdalos points out.
Like all the Greek islands, which suffered tremendously last summer because of the restrictions on tourist arrivals, Kastellorizo should expect a boost in tourism this year.
However, authorities there are not triumphant yet. “Tourism is a secondary thought at the moment,” Amygdalos said. “We have received lots of love from mailand Greeks that are struggling, so we are not celebrating yet.
Eagerly awaiting the return of normal life
Nisyros, another island in the East Dodecanese with a population of 1,000, is about to become Covid-free as well, as most of its residents will soon receive the second dose of the vaccine.
“By Saturday (March 13) we will have almost all our residents inoculated,” Nisyros Mayor Christofis Koronaios told Greek Reporter.
Unlike mainland Greece — and most other parts of the earth — the island has not been affected by the pandemic whatsoever. “We had no problems so far,” Koronaios says.
“We had no losses here before the inoculation, but now we feel more free,” the mayor explains.
However, the inoculation campaign on the island is of great importance as businesses and shops have been forced to suspend their operations due to the health measures.
“We eagerly await for shops to open because, unfortunately, our economy, is in very bad shape,” Koronaios notes.
“No virus deniers” on Halki island
Aggelos Fraggakis, the mayor of Halki island, tells Greek Reporter that almost all residents have now been vaccinated except a very small percentage. On March 11, the second dose will be given to everyone, he says.
“We do not have virus deniers – thank God – here,” he adds.
“Some older people were hesitant at first because they were more afraid of the side effects of the vaccine.”
However, he says, “gradually after they spoke with nurses and doctors they came around and entered the vaccination list.”
Fraggakis added that there is a discussion at the regional level to have a common policy for all the small islands that are Covid-free.
“The inhabitants feel safer and more relieved even after the first dose, while at first they were somewhat hesitant,” he notes.
Symi soon to be another Covid-free Greek island
Symi, another idyllic island that is best known for its unique shrimp, will vaccinate all its islanders by the end of April.
Mayor Lefteris Papakalodoukas, who says that the island will be Covid-free by the end of Spring, still warns of the dangers of unrestricted travel to the island.
He tells Greek Reporter that tourists who will arrive should be tested or, even better, should be issued with a vaccination passport.
The EU is now proposing the creation of a “vaccine passport,” which could allow people to travel more freely in time for the summer holidays.
The EU-wide “digital green pass” would provide proof that a person has been vaccinated, as well as test results for those who have not yet been inoculated.
The digital certificate will also carry information on recovery for people who have already been ill with Covid-19.
Officials on Tilos, Greece’s first energy-self-sufficient island, hope to finalize the vaccination of the population there with their second dose by April 10.
Mayor Maria Kamma-Aliferi says that health care workers will conduct a Covid test for all those arriving on the island beginning this weekend.
She also stresses the island’s residents strong approval for the concept of some type of a vaccine passport.
Residents of 18 small Greek islands now inoculated
Altogether, eighteen small islands have been inoculated so far, with ten of them expecting to finish giving their second doses to residents this week.
More than one million people across Greece have received the first shot of a coronavirus vaccine, with 356,000 people now having had both doses out of a population of 11 million.