After a seemingly interminable year of lockdowns and partial openings, the public are pinning their hopes on a return to something approaching normality just after Easter, as many services and amenities in Greece reopen after a very difficult Winter and Spring.
The government is facing the most difficult stage of the lockdown in many ways, since it gave May 14 as a non-negotiable opening date for its tourist season.
But just when are all the different amenities and services opening up around the country?
Restaurants, cafes in Greece reopen
Restaurants, one of the mainstays of the tourist trade and the frequent haunts of Greeks during the Summers as they enjoy their amazing cuisine in tavernas and other spots, will reopen after the Easter holiday, on May 3.
When restaurants and cafes open, Greeks will be required to send the number six to the toll-free number 13033 to go out to eat or to have a coffee.
Similarly, they will still have to send a message for all other movements until May 15, just in time for Greece’s planned “full opening” to international tourists for the summer season.
In a recent interview with ANT1 TV, Secretary General of Commerce and Consumer Protection Panagiotis Stampoulidis commended the recent stabilization in coronavirus rates in the country and the attention the public has paid to the strict observance of the lockdown measures.
“Consumers were careful (in observing the health measures) over the past few days… because we have all understood that we are at a critical point and the market must remain open,” he stated.
Stampoulidis went on to state that not only are self tests now available to companies and employees, the platform for those who are of working age is sue to open soon, leading to many Greeks becoming fully vaccinated in the near future.
As of May 3, he reiterated, Greek citizens will be able to once again frequent their favorite restaurants, cafes and bars, as long as they use outdoor tables.
Service for seated restaurant, cafe and bar customers will close at 11:00 PM but all such establishments can continue operating for delivery and take out services after that time.
According to the country’s strict anti-virus measures, all restaurants and cafes will be open for outdoor seating only, with socially-distanced tables, and no music playing.
The restrictions state the each table can seat a maximum of six people, and customers must sit, not stand.
Additionally, all staff will have to undergo self testing for the coronavirus twice a week and they must wear masks while working.
Restrictions on movement and inter-regional travel
Starting on May 3, the curfew will be shortened to six hours daily, from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., from the current seven, as it runs from 10 p.m. – 5 a.m.
Since Wednesday, inter-regional travel is permitted. Greeks can travel across regions as long as they remain within their regional unit.
For example, those in Attica can travel between regions there, without leaving Attica.
Those hoping to leave the region where they live have to send the number 6 to 13033, however.
On May 15, free domestic travel between regions will be allowed once again, coinciding with the launch of the tourist season.
Shops open, with restrictions
Small retail stores in Greece were allowed to reopen — with restrictions — on April 5.
Malls and shopping centers, excluded from the stores that already reopened in Greece this month, will be permitted to operate starting on Saturday in Greece, according to the latest Covid-19 restrictions.
Shoppers in Thessaloniki and Kozani will be able to make purchases inside stores by appointment, or “click-in-shop,” on Saturday, whereas previously they could only shop by “click-away,” or on a curbside pickup basis.
Malls and superstores across the country will operate by the same “click in shop” procedure.
Additionally, according to the decision that followed approval by Greece’s committee of epidemiologists, beauty centers — which offer makeup, facials, and other cosmetic services opened Saturday, April 24.
The decision moves the country one step closer to easing its lockdown altogether, which is expected to occur in mid-May.
Ferries wil employ vaccination certificate system
Greek Shipping and Islands Police Minister Giannis Plakiotakis stated to the press on April 20 that Greek ferries will be using vaccination certificates, self-tests and rapid tests to enable the tourist season to begin this year.
“Τhe green digital vaccination certificate, rapid tests and self tests will be used for voyages with ferries,” the Shipping Minister said earlier today.
Plakiotakis further stated that ferries with cabins will start out at a 55% occupancy rate and those without cabs will be allowed to have only a 50% occupancy rate.
Regarding Thessaloniki’s ferry link with the northern and southern Aegean, he said that the Ministry is promoting long term contracts in order for these ferry routes to be permanent and stable.
The Minister made his remarks after a meeting with the regional governor of Central Macedonia, Apostolos Tzitzikostas.
“In close cooperation with the Health Ministry’s agencies, of the National Public Health Organization and the epidemiologists, we will maket targeted interventions in the reviewing of the health protocols,” Plakiotakis said.
“In close cooperation with the Health Ministry’s agencies, of the National Public Health Organisation and the epidemiologists, we will maket targeted interventions in the reviewing of the health protocols,” Plakiotakis said.
“We hope, he said, that through the reform of the health protocol and the progress of the vaccinations, to have an immunity wall in the summer in order to be able to experience some normalcy”, he added.
Regarding Thessaloniki’s ferry link with the northern and southern Aegean, he said that the Ministry is promoting long term contracts in order for these ferry routes to be permanent.
Residents from EU+ countries (the 27 member states plus Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and the UK), are now allowed into Greece, along with travelers from Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and the UAE.
So hotels are now open, although certainly they have drastically less business than they would normally have at this time of year.
Everyone must still quarantine for seven days on arrival, with travelers from the UK having to undergo a rapid test on arrival in Greece. Any negative test will require at least 14 days of quarantine.
Quarantines will be done away with for the most part on May 14, when Greece plans to throw open its doors to much of the world once again, while employing the vaccine passport system which will allow passengers to avoid quarantines by verifying that they have either been vaccinated or are otherwise immune to the coronavirus.
At that time, only those who test positive for the coronavirus will have to quarantine — and even then it most likely will have to be only for one say since rapid tests are now being used.
Hotels will then surely fill up with guests as most simply rolled last year’s cancelled bookings over into this year as a service to the disappointed travelers.
Schools and churches slowly returning to normal
High schools in Greece opened on Monday, May 12, with strict measures regarding self-testing, which is offered for free to students, while masking and social distancing will be the norm there.
Middle schools, including grades 7-9 and primary schools will likewise reopen on May 10, again with all the appropriate masking and social distancing regulations in place.
For Greek Easter 2021, churches will be allowed to have a much larger congregation than last year, and some churches will hold many services outdoors. For indoor liturgies, there can be one person per 25 square meters, with a maximum of 100 people in any one church building.