Summer 2021: Will Greece be open for holidays?
Already at the end of January more than 2% of the population has been vaccinated, however like 2020, 2021 is expected to be another uncertain year.
Greece was open to green coded countries since the 1st of July 2020. The summer of 2020 was almost coronavirus-free and with a very low number of cases and deaths.
Despite the measures of social distancing taken in hotels, restaurants, cafes, beaches, ferries, flights, buses and so on, people was relaxed and careless in July and August and stricter measures inevitably returned in October. However, the situation went soon out of control leading to a new lockdown from November 7th 2020.
Shops and schools closed, travel between prefectures was forbidden and a curfew was imposed at night hours. Later, stricter measures were imposed on heavily impacted areas.
By the end of January 2021 some of the measures were lifted, but with the strict warning from the government that if they rise up again the lockdown will return. However, the lockdown applies in areas where the cases are increasing.
The population vaccination has been codenamed "Operation Freedom" and intends to have vaccinated more than 60% of the population by June.
Healthcare personnel and elderly people above the age of 85 have already been vaccinated, currently people 80-85 are being vaccinated.
Vaccinations proceed to 100% of the original plan, but the main problem is the pan-European delays in vaccine deliveries, something that Greece is expecting for the European solution to be given.
According to the schedule, as the deliveries increase, so will the vaccinations of the population, which is why the anxiety on this issue.
Greece is also awaiting developments on Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines.
Why Greece will be ready in the summer
Tourism is the most important sector of the Greek economy as in 2019 it represented over 25% of GDP.
The scenario of not opening up tourism would be catastrophic as unemployment and benefits would rise and many businesses would stop paying loans, taxes and employee's insurance.
The effects would soon be felt in other sectors of the economy, such as ferry companies and food.
Of course the effects on islands and tourist areas would be long-lasting.
Will I need a vaccination certificate to travel to Greece?
On 12-21-2020 it was announced by the Greek government that vaccination certificates will be issued to Greek citizens who are vaccinated.
Although there has been no formal announcement of its uses so far, its integration will be determined by international practice. The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has already proposed a single European policy, something not discussed at the moment.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is already developing the "IATA travel pass" application for smartphones. The application will store the passenger credentials (positive test and vaccination certificate) and will be used as an entry credential to the aircraft (for the companies that will integrate it) and the country.
It is unknown whether tourism businesses such as hotels, restaurants and cinemas will integrate it.
It is emphasized, however, that the aim is to vaccinate the entire population, any integration of the certificate will be only a temporary solution.
Have any measures been announced for the summer of 2021?
What has been announced is that the measures will be completely lifted once the majority of the population has been vaccinated, which is expected to take place in September.
Until then, restriction measures will come and go.
What can be safely predicted is that as the vaccination progresses, the daily cases will decrease and the measures may recede.
The 60% of June will increase in July and August as vaccinations continue, so these months will be even safer.
Of course, the schedules after June are still unknown.
Will the measures of the summer of 2020 be repeated?
This cannot be predicted as there are unknown parameters:
- how the vaccination certificates will be integrated?
- how will the vaccinations evolve?
- how will the epidemic evolve in foreign countries?
- what about the young children who are excluded from the vaccinations?
Looking back at 2020, the drop in cases has gradually brought about the release of travel, the opening of beaches, campings, museums, restaurants, bars and hotels.
On June 15, flights from 29 safe countries were released and on July 1, they were released from all countries except those with a negative development of the epidemic.
Passengers were not quarantined, only sampling tests were performed according to the ranking of countries in green, yellow, orange and red.
What were the last summer measures?
Health protocols have been implemented where there's a crowd gathering to avoid overcrowding.
- hotels: electronic payments, different hours of check-in, electronic check-in, signage in the buffet and public areas, distances in the chairs, no use of the elevator, limited swimmers in the pools
- restaurants, taverns, cafes, bars, fast foods: signage, tables and seat distances, electronic menus, electronic payments, online orders
- organized beaches: controlled entrance, distances to the umbrellas and sunbeds, 2 sunbeds per umbrella except for families, canteens only take away
- campings: distances between tents/caravans at least 5 meters
- ferries: mandatory use of mask indoors, 50% occupancy (this was increased during the summer), body temperature measurement, fill out a questionnaire, distances, 1 person per cabin excluding families and the disabled, empty seats
- flights: mandatory use of mask, boarding in sections, no coffee and food served in-flight, snacks, water and antiseptic at the entrance of the aircraft
- intercity buses - trains: mandatory use of mask, 50% occupancy, mandatory empty seats, electronic ticket, distances while boarding
- guided tours: use of mask, distances, controlled entrance to museums and archeological sites, signage
- Metro - Tram - city buses: use of mask, distances
- taxi: 2 passengers
Despite the measures, however, the summer relaxation (mainly due to overcrowding in shops, parties and fairs), brought an increase in cases since August.
Can I book hotel for the summer?
Hotels accept bookings normally, however the uncertainty doesn't leave much room for optimism.
The situation will be normalized as vaccinations of the population proceed internationally.
Even if you get vaccinated, you can't know if your country's border with Greece will be open or how you will be able to use the vaccination certificate.
The only thing for sure out of this is that Greece will be open in the summer for tourism.
Throughout 2020, the criterion of the Greek government for the imposition of measures, was the course of the cases and the pressure on the intensive care units.
Although it can't be predicted with certainty, as vaccinations progress, and especially of vulnerable citizens, the cases will decrease and this will pave the way for the lifting of the measures.