Most Greeks – who have endured months of lockdown – would agree with that sentiment, said Ms. Nakou, the analyst. “I think there is hardly any alternative, to be honest, given the importance of the sector in the economy,” she said.
But Ms Nakou noted that the number of Covid cases has increased after the country opened up to tourists last summer, and that many Greeks have associated the arrival of visitors with an increase in the circulation of the virus. She noted that in a survey of Greeks last fall, tourism was the factor most often cited to cause the second wave, ahead of people flouting lockdown rules, as well as congestion on public transport. or in restaurants.
“I think it’s on the minds of a lot of people at the local level,” Ms. Nakou said. “They are happy to see the economy reopen; they are also very concerned about it.
In terms of new daily infections, the worst moment of the pandemic in Greece came in early April this year, when the country averaged over 3,000 cases per day; ICU admissions peaked about two weeks later. On a per capita basis, Greece’s experience is paltry compared to the worst times of the pandemic in the United States, Britain, France or Italy, but as the Greek medical system has suffered from years of underfunding , it is particularly vulnerable to stress. Intensive care units nationwide were 87% full as of April 21, even as lockdown measures were to be lifted.
At the same time, vaccination resumes. Just over 20 percent of the country’s population had received at least one dose of the vaccine by the end of April. Coverage is much higher in some of the Greek islands, which were targeted at the start of the country’s vaccination campaign in part due to their geographic isolation and limited medical facilities. But local leaders are also hoping that the image of heavily vaccinated “Covid-free islands” will help attract tourists.
“This is a very important step which guarantees the start of the tourist season and sends a message of optimism,” said Efi Liarou, the mayor of Elafonisos island last month.
Even though many people end up making their way to Greece this summer, it’s clear this year’s peak tourist season will be unlike any other.