ATHENS, July 29 (Reuters) – Greece’s southern Aegean islands were marked in dark red on the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control’s COVID-19 map on Thursday after an increase in infections, meaning that all but essential travel to and from the region is discouraged.
The group of 13 islands includes Greece’s most popular destinations for foreign tourists – Mykonos, Santorini and Rhodes – which, combined, attract millions of people each summer.
Greek Deputy Minister of Civil Protection Nikos Hardalias said Thursday later that Mykonos and Ios, another popular tourist destination, were “one step away” from authorities imposing restrictions.
He said the situation was also worrying on the islands of Zakynthos, Tinos, Lefkada, Santorini, Paros and Rhodes.
Greece, which relies heavily on tourism, had relied on promoting “COVID-free” islands to attract visitors this summer, hoping a rebound in international travel would resuscitate the sector after its worst year for decades in 2020.
Despite a strong month of June in terms of arrivals and expressions of optimism on the part of ministers and tourism officials, uncertainty remains over the course of the season. Read more
“We are waiting to see how the (tourist) markets react,” said Manolis Markopoulos, president of the Rhodes Hotel Association, referring to the decision of ECDC, an agency of the European Union. Over 90% of the island’s tourists come from abroad.
Germany, which this month classified Greece as a coronavirus risk area, and Britain, which has Greece on its ‘orange’ list of countries requiring returning travelers to be quarantined at home , are generally the biggest sources of visitors to Greece.
Dark red areas on the ECDC map help distinguish very high risk areas and also help EU member states comply with rules requiring testing on departure and quarantine on return.
Last week, the ECDC demoted Crete, Greece’s largest island and another popular destination, to the dark red zone.
Reporting by Karolina Tagaris and Lefteris Papadimas Editing by Toby Chopra and Peter Graff
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