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Loungers Now Four Meters Apart on Greek Beaches to Promote Safety

Greek Beaches
Greek beaches all over the country are now welcoming summer travelers safely this year. Credit: Greek Reporter

Greek beaches now offer sun worshippers and swimmers loungers that are placed at least four meters apart for safety as part of its ambitious campaign to make vacationing in the country as safe as possible.

As the country opens up to tourists from all over the world, things do look — and sound — a bit different this spring. Beach loungers, with their ubiquitous sunshades, so essential under Greece’s hot sun, are now far enough apart to give an added layer of protection for those who might be concerned about the coronavirus.

In an added precaution, the loungers will be disinfected at intervals to make sure they are as hygienic as possible.

And although facemasks are mandatory both indoors and out as a rule in the country, no masks are needed in the water of course — and neither are they while a person is sunbathing.

Greek beaches feel more spacious — and sound quieter — this year

And there is no music — either recorded or live — which would force people to speak loudly over it or draw nearer to each other in order to be heard — there by heightening the likelihood of exchanging molecules containing the coronavirus.

All beach, restaurant and hotel staff must also be masked and will need to be tested for the coronavirus on an ongoing basis.

To help ensure a safe vacation this year, Greece embarked on an ambitious and unprecedented plan to inoculate all citizens of the Greek islands having less than 10,000 in population, on April 15 as part of its overall  inoculation campaign, dubbed “Operation Freedom.”

That amounted to 85 total islands whose residents were inoculated against he coronavirus.

After the resounding success of that campaign, the country began an even more wide-ranging program, aimed at the blanket inoculation of every single resident — regardless of age — in all the Greek islands, regardless of population, by June 25.

With Great Britain recently tapping the brakes on promoting Greek vacations for its citizens, and with the US placing the country on a list of nations which it tells its citizens to avoid, there has been a bit of a damper placed on Greek tourism so far in 2021.

In addition, Greece still requires coronavirus tests on all those coming into the country, including Great Britain and the United States, unless they an show a vaccine certificate or proof that they have antibodies against the virus.

After the nation opened to tourists from Israel and other countries which had an extremely high rate of vaccination, and allowed Americans and others to enter the country once again with no quarantining needed, it was anticipated that the floodgates of tourism in Greece would be opened once more.

But the UK Government has warned Brits — one of the largest groups of travelers to Greece every Summer — against going on holiday to “Amber list” destinations; perennial holiday favorite Greece has yet to be added to the “Green list” allowing non-quarantined travel.

Boris Johnson’s spokesman commented again this week on the matter, saying “Our advice hasn’t changed in regards to Amber list countries.”

Greece relaxes travel, accommodation restrictions

Greece began in early April to reopen relaxing lockdown restrictions originally imposed in November by reopening most retail shops except malls.

This was followed by outdoor restaurants and cafes on May 3.

The restrictions state the each table can seat a maximum of six people, and customers must sit, not stand.

While waiting to be seated, customers must wear masks. They are also strongly recommended to wear their masks while not eating or drinking — but this is not mandatory.

Additionally, all staff will have to undergo self testing for the coronavirus twice a week and they must wear masks while working.

Quarantine restrictions were lifted for vaccinated or tested travelers from the EU and a small number of other countries including Britain and the United States in April.

Greek beaches reopen, along with hotels, restaurants, cafes

Hotels and 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, reopened after the Easter holiday, on May 3.

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.

The restrictions state the each table can seat a maximum of six people, and customers must sit, not stand.

While waiting to be seated, customers must wear masks. They are also strongly recommended to wear their masks while not eating or drinking, but this is not mandatory.

Additionally, all staff must undergo self testing for the coronavirus twice a week and they must wear masks while working.

Theoharis traveled to Atlanta, Georgia recently, where he met with executives from Delta Airlines, which is headquartered in the city.  Delta announced that direct flights from New York to Athens would resume this Friday, May 28, followed by flights from Atlanta on July 2. 

The Minister said that the US airlines’ representatives pointed to Greece’s high recovery rate among European countries as a reason to resume travel.

Rebuilding trust with tourists

During his US trip, Theoharis provided an interview to Global Atlanta, in which he said his only goal was to gain the trust of American travelers.

“This is not about Greece gaining market share. This is about everyone restarting that trust,” Theoharis said. 

He touted the effectiveness of the Greek approach to protecting public health for residents and tourists alike. This approach Theoharis insist is more effective after applying the lessons learned from a surge in COVID 19 cases last fall. 

“This vacation is not the same as 2019. There are still restrictions in terms of social distancing … and hygiene requirements,” he said. “Those have worked very well. Our private sector implemented them in exemplary fashion, like hotels, etc. So we’ll continue with that. We’re updating them with the new knowledge that we have — slight changes — but effectively (they are doing) what we expected from them.”

For Theoharis, the goal for Greece’s reopening to tourism is to ensure the best possible experience for the visitors themselves. To this end, he said this means freedom to move around in Greece and return home healthy. 

“We do not aim for quantity in terms of revenue or number of people that come in now. Just quality. And quality for us means to have the ability to travel if you want to, and to be safe throughout the journey, door to door, and go back to your loved ones and relatives, safe and sound,” Theoharis said.

Greece as a model of a safe tourism destination

While keeping safety in mind, Greece’s tourism officials want to make it as easy as possible for tourists to visit Greece. Theoharis explained that American and other travelers who can show proof of their vaccination or at least that they tested negative for COVID 19 will be allowed into his country.

Theoharis maintains that Greece’s main goal with its reopening is to set a standard for how to reopen safely for international visitors.

“We are saying there is a system. We put it in the public domain, we want others to copy it. We believe it’s safe. We have the data to back it up. Of course every country makes its own sovereign decisions, but we believe that this is the way to move forward,” he told Global Atlanta. 

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