Fears over the fast-spreading Omicron variant of Covid-19 have prompted Greek authorities to require as of 6am on Sunday, December 19, of all inbound travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to present a negative PCR or rapid antigen test result taken before entering the country.
PCR tests should be performed within 72 hours before travel and rapid antigen tests should be performed within 24 hours before travel.
Speaking during a media briefing on Thursday, Deputy Health Minister Mina Gaga said that the measure was being taken as a precaution due to the holiday season.
Further details and updates on travel restrictions can be found here.
Highly concerned, earlier today, European Union leaders agreed that vaccine booster shots were necessary, particularly in view of the holiday season as epidemiologists warn of a surge in cases.
The heads of EU nations said that repeat doses of vaccines against the deadly virus were “urgent” and “crucial”, stressing at the same time that a coordinated response to travel was critical in order to avoid creating confusion and trust among travelers.
Additionally, they said the EU Digital Covid Certificate should continue to ensure restriction-free travel across the Union.
Meanwhile, Greek health experts are warning that Christmas and New Year’s get-togethers and activities are expected to lead to a surge in positive cases, particularly due to the highly infectious Omicron variant. Some medical doctors are calling for stricter measures, including closing schools and nightclubs, while others are stressing the need for all returning students or incoming travelers to get PCR tests regardless of vaccination status.
Additionally, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, attending the EU leaders meeting in Brussels, also said he may need to order new measures ahead of Christmas in view of soaring cases and deaths, noting that there was “great concern over the spread of the Omicron variant, which sooner or later will be in all European countries.”
He added that booster doses of Covid-19 vaccines were key to curbing the spread of Omicron. The Greek prime minister also proposed the EU digital Covid pass to apply for a period of six plus one months instead of the six plus three months proposed by the European Committee.
Greece already reported at least five cases of Omicron infections this week, and in the last 24-hour period, 4,696 coronavirus cases and 96 deaths. Based on December 16 data provided by the European Center of Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), all of Greece is listed as high-risk red on the map of Covid-19 risk.