Will Greece ever regulate its economy?

Greece: tourists welcome back soon

After six long months of lockdown, the time has finally come: Greece is opening up with a three-step plan, which Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis presented in a televised address on April 21, 2021. From May 3rd the outdoor catering opens, the schools from May 10th. And from May 15, travelers who have full corona vaccination or a negative test are welcome again at any time without the obligation to quarantine.

Shortly before Mitsotakis' televised address, the Greek public learned the current, worrying COVID-19 numbers: 3,015 new confirmed infections, 831 patients requiring artificial ventilation, 86 new deaths. Since the epidemic began, 9,713 people have died as a result of the virus disease in Greece.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, here speaking in front of the parliament in Athens on February 25th, 2021

When the government in Athens decided to lockdown at the beginning of November - going out only for specific reasons and with permission via SMS, night curfew, strict travel restrictions, school lessons via the Internet and many more - the number of daily infections was below 2500 and that of the patients in the intensive care units was only half as high. The question of why the country is opening now of all times is therefore obvious. But nobody wants to provide them - not even the opposition, which the government otherwise constantly accuses of utter failure in the fight against pandemics.

The reason: After six months of lockdown, people's patience is exhausted and the existential fears of those who have not been working for six months in several important industries are enormous. That is why the outdoor areas of cafes, pubs and restaurants are now reopening. And tourism, the country's most important source of income, can start up again. With the help of three key allies: vaccinations, self-tests and good weather, as Mitsotakis said on TV Wednesday night.

(Almost) alone on the Acropolis

Potential tourists to Greece should hurry now: Those who decide to visit the south-eastern European country in May have the unique chance to experience a few sights in a completely different way. The Acropolis in Athens, for example, normally has over 15,000 visitors a day at this time of year; at the moment it is almost heavenly empty with fewer than 1000 visitors a day. No mortal - with the exception of a few heads of state, for whose visits the sacred rock is from time to time closed to the public - has ever seen the Acropolis like this since mass tourism began. The same applies to Delphi and Knossos, to Olympia and Epidaurus.

(Almost) without tourists: The Temple of Athena in Delphi from the 4th century BC

The experiment that Greece's tourism industry carried out on 188 Dutch tourists in Rhodes was less paradisiacal: From April 14th to 18th, they were locked in a hotel, with contact with each other - but without access to other people on the island. After all, after the test subjects left, it was clear that the infection situation could be controlled in this way. This made it easier for the Greek government to open the islands to visitors.

"COVID-free Iceland"

The second main role for the opening was played by the decision to vaccinate all inhabitants of the numerous smaller islands in Greece. The prioritization of vaccinations has been lifted on islands with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants. All residents should be vaccinated as quickly as possible so that their island can also be marketed to tourists as a "COVID-free Island".

View of the coastal village of Oia on the northwestern tip of the Greek Aegean island of Santorini

From May 15th, Greece lovers will be able to move freely anywhere in the country again. Only the famous Greek night life will not really be enjoyed. Although the curfew is to be postponed from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., it has not yet been abolished.

Taverns without live music

It also remains unclear when you can start enjoying culture again in Greece. So far there is no roadmap for the reopening of theaters, concert halls, clubs or summer cinemas. Until further notice, live music will be banned in the taverns - although Greek artists are desperately waiting for sources of income.

At that time still without a mask and distance: On April 30, 2016, a Greek woman received an Easter light lit during a church service

So far, their hopes have been bitterly disappointed, as have those of those compatriots who want to celebrate Orthodox Easter in the village next week. That falls on May 2nd this year - and many in the Greek cities were hoping to finally be able to go to the countryside again after the travel ban at Christmas. But the government decided against a corresponding relaxation for fear of a renewed increase in corona infections. The opening up of tourism must not be jeopardized under any circumstances: the industry generates 25 percent of the Greek gross national product.

The Orthodox Church donated a little consolation for the messed up Easter: The Holy Synod decided unexpectedly flexibly to move the Resurrection Mass from midnight to 9 p.m. and to move it to the church yards. In this way, before the nightly curfew, people can take the Easter light lit in the church service and beat the traditional red Easter eggs together - even if without the usual kisses on the cheek for acquaintances and strangers, the mask requirement and distance rules do not allow at times.