“It was a difficult equation to solve but we did well”: Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is banking on “the success” of his government in the battle against the coronavirus to attract tourists to an uncertain economic situation.
Less affected than its European partners, Greece has so far deplored 175 deaths and nearly 3,000 cases of the new coronavirus: a result that the Conservative government, after a year in power, is trying to exploit by trying to minimize the impact of the deep recession expected.
Under the slogan “We have opened and we are waiting for you”, the advertising campaign for the tourist season 2020, which officially starts on June 15, two months later than usual, will be presented with great fanfare on Thursday evening by the Minister of Tourism , Harry Theoharis.
The Prime Minister must also deliver a firm message to reassure tourists and fellow citizens on the health security of the country after the pandemic.
The authorities have taken all the appropriate measures to guarantee public health during a summer season which is admittedly “very different” from the previous ones, hammered government spokesman Stelios Petsas.
On the occasion of the reopening of primary schools earlier this week, the Prime Minister again praised the “efficiency” of the executive during the strict confinement of the country, from March 23 to May 4.
He also praised the “responsibility” and the “coolness” of the Greeks, who respected the traffic bans under penalty of severe fines.
On every occasion, government officials and the media repeat the words of the head of government over and over, that the Greeks, “bad pupils of Europe” a few years ago during the financial crisis, “managed to regain their confidence and their pride “thanks to” good management “of the health crisis.
Fears of spread
From June 15, the two main airports of Athens and Thessaloniki are authorized to welcome visitors from more than thirty countries, mostly from the European Union, the main customers of the country. Regional airports are scheduled to open on July 1.
“The government plan follows the evolution of epidemiological data” with the objective of ensuring “maximum security for residents and visitors,” said Stelios Petsas on Wednesday.
A list of 29 countries originally published last Friday by the Ministry of Tourism, excluding the European countries most affected by the Covid-19, has been expanded in 24 hours, now allowing flights from France, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom.
Under pressure from tourism professionals, the country’s main sector of the economy with nearly 20% of gross domestic product (GDP), the Greek government has worked hard to ensure the recovery of the sector while social discontent and the unemployment go up.
However, the risk of the virus spreading with the arrival of tourists remains a source of concern.
“The possibility of a second wave of the new coronavirus is not zero,” warned Gkikas Magiorkinis, professor of epidemiology at the University of Athens, on public television ERT.
He stressed that in this regard the return of tourists would be “the big challenge”.
Only random tests are planned for visitors, with the exception of those arriving from the regions most affected by Covid-19, such as Ile-de-France, four Italian regions (Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto ) and four Spanish (Madrid, Catalonia, Castilla y Leon, Castilla-La Mancha) who will be subject to strict quarantine measures.
But in a country of almost 11 million inhabitants, which welcomes millions of tourists every year on its islands and on its continent, the fears are obvious.
The government wants to be reassuring: “hygiene protocols” are adapted daily “to epidemiological data”.
As proof, flights to and from Qatar were immediately suspended Tuesday and until June 15 after several cases of coronavirus were detected on a flight connecting Doha to Athens.