Compiled by Nikos Krinis, GTP Managing Editor
The Greek Travel Pages (GTP) is providing a timeline mapping the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the Greek tourism sector.
The timeline informs about select moments from January 2020 and on and tracks the pandemic’s development in Greece with regard to travel and tourism until the present day.
Following a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown aetiology in China’s Wuhan City, Hubei province, the country’s CDC on 9 January reports that a novel coronavirus (later named SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing Covid-19) has been detected as the causative agent for them.
By 20 January 2020, there are reports of confirmed cases from three countries outside China: Thailand, Japan and South Korea. These cases had all been exported from China.
Although the risk of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) spreading to Greece is considered low, the National Public Health Organization (EODY) from 21 January begins discussions on the matter.
Towards the end of January, the virus starts to spread in Europe.
China bans outbound travel due to coronavirus, Germany also reports cases
- China takes extraordinary measures to try and stop the spread of the coronavirus, including bans on tour groups travelling overseas. Greece’s health minister, Vassilis Kikilias, holds emergency meeting with the Ambassador of China to Greece, Zhang Qiyue, and discusses additional measures in view of the coronavirus outbreak.
- Germany also reports coronavirus cases, related to a person visiting from China.
Travel agents call for action plan in view of coronavirus outbreak
Travel agents and tour operators call on tourism stakeholders and authorities to jointly formulate a clear action plan in view of the coronavirus outbreak.
Early February finds the British-registered Diamond Princess, the first cruise ship to have a major outbreak on board, quarantined at Yokohama for approximately one month. At the time, the ship accounted for over half the reported cases of SARS-CoV-2 outside of mainland China. From then on, governments and ports respond by preventing many cruise ships from docking and advising people to avoid travelling on cruise ships. Similarly, many cruise lines suspend their operations to mitigate the spread of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, with the virus slowly spreading in Europe, the Hellenic National Public Health Organization (EODY) begins strengthening checks on passengers arriving from China at Athens International Airport (AIA) for possible cases.
On 22 February 2020 and over the following days, the Italian authorities report clusters of cases in several regions (Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto). During the following week, several European countries report cases of Covid-19 through travel from the affected areas in Italy, as well as cases without epidemiological links to Italy, China or other countries with ongoing transmission.
The Greek government begins to lay out precaution measures.
Greece’s first confirmed Covid-19 case is announced on 26 February 2020 and the government cancels all carnival events as a precaution. The Health Ministry on the same day holds its first live televised briefing for the coronavirus pandemic headed by infectious diseases expert Sotiris Tsiodras. (Accompanied later by Greek Civil Protection Deputy Minister Nikos Hardalias, Tsiodras gave daily briefings on the developments surrounding the pandemic until May 26. The daily televised briefings resumed on August 25 headed by infectious diseases expert Gkikas Magiorkinis).
First coronavirus guidelines for Greek tourism sector
The Hellenic National Public Health Organization (EODY) issues guidelines to Greek travel and tourism services, including hotels and airlines, to eliminate the potential spread of the coronavirus.
Athens Airport puts advanced coronavirus measures in place
Athens International Airport (AIA) moves ahead with a series of measures to halt the potential spread of the Wuhan virus including monitoring suspected incoming travelers and crews.
Athens-Beijing flights suspended
Air China suspends Athens-Beijing flights due to the coronavirus outbreak.
First confirmed case in Greece / Live briefings begin for the pandemic’s course
- “Patient zero” – Greece’s first confirmed Covid-19 case is announced. The first person to be diagnosed with Covid-19 in Greece is a resident of Thessaloniki.
- Greek Health Ministry launches its first live televised briefing for the coronavirus pandemic headed by Infectious diseases expert Sotiris Tsiodras. He is later joined by Civil Protection Deputy Minister Nikos Hardalias.
Greece takes steps to limit the spread, Issues guidelines, Cancels carnival events
- To limit the spread of Covid-19, Greece cites EU Regulation 2016/399 on the movement of persons across borders and the necessity to prevent threats to public health.
- Greece’s general secretariat for civil protection issues guidelines in six languages with precautionary measures and information on the coronavirus.
- Greek health authorities cancel all carnival festivities as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus. Two more cases of coronavirus-infected individuals – one in Athens – is confirmed.
- The Greek Tourism Ministry is closely monitoring the coronavirus situation and has a main role in a crisis management team set up by the Health Ministry and includes the National Public Health Organization (EODY) and tourism sector bodies (SETE and Hellenic Hoteliers Federation).
ITB Berlin 2020 Canceled
ITB Berlin, the world’s largest travel trade fair, cancels its 2020 show days before its opening (scheduled for 4 March).
Covid-19 begins to spread in Europe with increasing speed.
As cases slowly begin to rise in Greece, the government shuts schools (10 March) and later closes down courts, gyms, theaters and cinemas (12 March); restaurants, bars, malls, museums and archaeological sites (13 March); seasonal hotels and resorts (14 March); seals its ports to cruise ships (15 March); and gradually suspends flights to and from high risk countries, including Italy, Spain, UK and Turkey.
On 18 March Greece launches its first financial support plan for all Covid-hit businesses. Measures include Greek banks suspending performing business loan payments for Covid-19–hit businesses. Towards the end of the month, the government also begins the measure which suspends the expiration, presentation and payment deadlines for cheques of businesses having specific Activity Code Numbers (KAD) and that have either suspended operations following a state order or that are suffering as a result of the outbreak.
Greece officially goes into lockdown on March 23 and puts in place social distancing measures that include a ban on non-essential movement and remote work/telework in Greek public services and private companies. Prior to the pandemic, telework had a very small practice rate in Greece.
WHO characterizes COVID-19 as a pandemic
The World Health Organization (WHO) characterizes the coronavirus as a pandemic and says it will touch every sector.
Greece reports first Covid-19 death
- Greece’s first patient (a 66-year-old male) with Covid-19 dies in a hospital in Patras.
- EODY releases advise for those preparing to travel amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Greece shuts restaurants
Greek officials advise against travel and closes cinemas, cultural venues, museums and sites. Also closed are all cafés, bars and restaurants.
Greece closes seasonal hotels and resorts
Greece announces the closure of seasonal hotels and resorts.
Greece closes ports to foreign vessels
Greece closes ports to cruise ships and sailboats and suspends ferry services between Greece and Italy.
Ministry issues travel guidelines for Greeks
- The Greek Foreign Ministry advises against travel to countries with high coronavirus infection rates.
- The GNTO suspends Greece’s international tourism promotional campaign due to the coronavirus crisis.
- Authorities announce that Greece will close its borders to non-EU nationals from March 18.
EU closes its external borders / Marketing Greece launches #StaySafe action
- The EU announces the closure of its external borders and a temporary ban on “non-essential travel”.
- Marketing Greece launches action under the hashtag #StaySafe.
Greece steps up checks on travelers
- Strict checks on all incoming travelers at Greek airports, regardless of nationality, begin.
- Ferry travel restrictions are tightened.
Greece in lockdown, Shuts year-round hotels
- Greece imposes a countrywide lockdown to combat the coronavirus, barring people from moving for “unnecessary reasons”.
- Operation of year-round hotels suspended. (Press here for list of hotels that remained open.)
Greek tourism sector makes donations / AEGEAN suspends all international flights
- SETE and member enterprises make donations to Greece’s health system.
- AEGEAN temporarily suspends all international flights.
Greece bans domestic travel for Easter
Greece announces ban on domestic travel for Orthodox Easter.
With Greece still in lockdown and borders closed, the Greek Tourism Ministry launches the online platform Greece From Home, an initiative that invites travelers to visit the country virtually. During April, much talk is carried out worldwide about how to flatten the Covid-19 pandemic curve. Greece is found to have the best performance in Europe in terms of flattening the curve, according to a comparative pan-European report by Bridge Tank.
‘Greece From Home’ online platform launches
The Greek Tourism Ministry launches new online platform Greece From Home to promote the country’s image to people all over the world.
Greece covers canceled bookings with vouchers
A regulation allowing Greek airlines, ferries and tourism enterprises (hotels and travel agencies) to reimburse customers with 18-month vouchers for bookings that were canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, instead of cash refunds, is published in the Government Gazette.
Greek hotel chamber donates €1m to fight Covid-19
The Hellenic Chamber of Hotels donates 1 million euros to support Greece’s healthcare system in its battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Greek government, seeing the effectiveness in containing the spread of the virus and with the tourism season approaching, begins to lift lockdown restrictions in stages (from May 4) and slowly return to normalcy. The government allows retail businesses and hairdressers to resume operations first, then opens shopping malls and continues with allowing domestic travel by car.
Towards the end of the month, restaurants and cafes also open and domestic travel is fully restored (travel to the islands is allowed for all). From mid-May, the government announces a number of safety protocols for yachts, guided tours, ferry travel, air travel, rail and bus travel, hotels, travel agencies with transfer services and organized campsites.
Greece proposes pre-travel Covid-19 test
Greece proposes an EU-wide 72-hour pre-travel Covid-19 test to be instituted across the bloc to allow travel to begin once lockdown measures are lifted.
EC issues guidelines to restore freedom of movement
The European Commission presents a Tourism and Transport package of guidelines and recommendations to help Member States gradually and safely restore freedom of movement; lift travel restrictions and internal border controls; and allow tourism businesses to reopen.
Greece announces tourism restart plan
The Greek government presents a detailed plan to restart tourism in Greece during the post-Covid-19 era on 15 June, the day the country will gradually begin welcoming back flights from abroad.
Greece allows ferry travel
The government allows travel to the islands by ferry.
115m air transport aid package announced
Greece announces a Covid-19 air transport aid package of 115 million euros in funding to help the sector recover losses incurred by the health crisis.
Greece to open to 29 countries
Greece releases official list of the 29 countries it will open to on 15 June.
Greece enters its fifth stage of lifting Covid-19 restrictions and from 1 June allows professional recreational boating activities and cruises to resume operations. Also allowed to open their doors are year-round hotels, tourist campsites, catering activities, golf or mini golf courses, swimming pool services and open-air cinemas. From 6 June, restaurants, bars and cafes are allowed to serve customers in indoor areas.
In mid-June, Greece reopens for tourism with flights landing (until the end of the month) only to the airports of Athens and Thessaloniki. Towards the end of the month, the government announces that all international travelers must submit a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) before entering the country.
Meanwhile, on 17 June, the European Commission unveiled its EU vaccines strategy to accelerate the development, manufacturing and deployment of vaccines against Covid-19. The EU strategy rests on securing the production of vaccines in the EU and sufficient supplies for its Member States through Advance Purchase Agreements with vaccine producers via the Emergency Support Instrument.
Greece opens year-round hotels
Greece opens year-round hotels under health protocols and rules.
Greece’s new tourism campaign launch
“Greek Summer is a state of mind… This year, enjoy your Greek summer wherever you are…” is the message of Greece’s new tourism campaign that will be sent out to the world in 2020, following the Covid-19 crisis.
Emergency health care network for Greek islands
Greece launches a carefully interconnected network of emergency health care and medical services linking the islands with the mainland.
Athens & Thessaloniki open for international flights
Greece opens to international travelers only to airports of Athens and Thessaloniki. On the same day, the country’s seasonal hotels and resorts, museums, thermal springs and gyms reopen.
Passenger Locator Form (PLF) required to enter Greece
Greece announces that all travelers arriving to Greece by air, sea or road, are required to complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) before entering the country.
EU releases ‘safe’ list of nations welcome for tourism
EU releases safe list of nations welcome for tourism. Americans and Russians are left off the list.
Greece in July officially opens for tourism with all regional airports welcoming international flights. Having health as a priority, the government releases a list of Greek destinations with quarantine hotels to be used for Covid-19 isolation purposes.
In mid-July, due to a surge in Covid-19 cases, the Greek government begins testing travelers arriving at its land borders. Tests are carried out through the innovative EVA system, Greece’s AI screening and testing program created to control the Covid-19 risk of incoming tourists through all of the country’s entry points. (A study later reported that EVA caught nearly twice as many asymptomatic infected travelers as would have been caught if Greece had relied on only travel restrictions and randomized COVID testing.)
Eventually, a negative Covid-19 test becomes a requirement for some nationalities to enter the country.
During July, the government makes face masks compulsory in all indoor spaces and bans all local village festivals (Panigyria) to limit the spread of the virus.
Greece officially opens to international travelers
Greece officially opens for tourism and welcomes flights at all of its airports.
New tourism campaigns for Greece launch
- “Destination Greece Health First” is the new tourism campaign of the government that launches to promote Greece as a safe travel destination.
- Supporting the restart of Greek tourism, Marketing Greece launches its new “Endless Greek Summer” campaign that targets both Greek and international travelers.
Greece gets €70bn in EU Covid-19 recovery funding
Greece secures at least €70 billion in funds to address the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic from an EU recovery plan of €750 billion agreed on in Brussels.
Masks mandatory in all indoor spaces in Greece
The wearing of face masks becomes mandatory in all indoor spaces in Greece, including churches.
A sharp rise in Covid-19 cases is recorded in Greece and the government evaluates the situation. Health experts warn of a second wave but the Greek PM says that a second Covid-19 lockdown is not an option. The government begins to enforce measures on travel through land borders in northern Greece; bans standing in bars and clubs; and suspends events with a standing audience (concerts and performances).
During August, emergency restrictions are announced for a number of islands due to a rise in cases. The first island to undergo restrictions is Poros. Next destinations to see restrictions include Paros, Antiparos, Mykonos, Halkidiki, Lesvos and Zakynthos. Meanwhile, in mid-August, Finland, Norway and Estonia impose quarantine for arrivals from Greece.
Some Greek ports begin to open to cruise ships
Six ports in Greece – Piraeus, Rhodes, Heraklion, Volos, Corfu and Katakolo – open to cruise ships.
Warning for second Covid-19 wave in Greece
Health experts warn of a second coronavirus wave in Greece if citizens do not observe measures.
Curfew for bars in popular Greek destinations
Greece sets curfew for bars in popular destinations (they are not allowed to operate between 12 midnight and 7am).
Greece requires negative Covid-19 test from some air travellers
People arriving by air from Israel, Sweden, Czech Republic, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands and all travelers entering Greece’s land borders are obliged to present a negative molecular test upon arrival, conducted no more than 72 hours prior.
Data says tourism is not responsible for rise of cases in Greece
Data released by Civil Protection Deputy Minister Nikos Hardalias shows that tourism is not responsible for the rise in Covid-19 cases recorded in Greece. According to the data at the time, 83 percent of Greece’s confirmed Covid-19 cases were domestic (due to lax observation of health measures) and 17 percent were imported from travelers.
Greek PM promises free Covid-19 vaccine to Greeks
Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis promises free Covid-19 vaccine to Greeks once available.
Greece ranks 29th worldwide in daily tests
Greece improves position in the world ranking regarding the number of Covid-19 tests conducted daily per 1 million residents and ranks 29th worldwide, having climbed up 34 places.
Greece continues to impose emergency restrictions on some areas in the country such as Heraklion (Crete), due to Covid-19 cases increasing. Health experts become troubled over a new surge in Covid-19 incidents in Greece’s Attica region, concentrated for the most part in and around Athens. The government announces local measures for Attica and suspends concerts, outdoor theater performances and indoor cinema screenings. At the same time, the government imposes travel restrictions on arrivals from Russia and the Czech Republic.
Greece reopens to Russian tourists
Greece reopens to Russian tourists that arrive with a negative Covid-19 test result.
New Covid-19 measures imposed in Athens-Attica
The government imposes new Covid-19 measures in Athens-Attica such as teleworking; suspends concerts; and closes cinemas with indoor screenings.
EU activates SURE program to protect Covid-affected jobs
The European Commission activates the SURE instrument, which will provide up to 100 billion euros in financial support to help protect jobs and workers affected by the pandemic. Greece is to receive some 2.7 billion euros in financial support from the program.
Covid-19 cases continue to rise in Greece. The government introduces a risk-assessment map for citizens to track the spread of Covid-19 by regional unit and keep up to date on the latest safety restrictions which are indicated by a traffic light color-coded system in areas. Greek areas that see cases rise in October include Kythnos, Achaia, Ioannina and Kastoria.
Towards the end of the month the government makes wearing face masks in all public spaces compulsory and also announces a night curfew for areas designated as high risk.
Meanwhile, Lineage B.1.617, a variant of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19) is first identified in Maharashtra, India, on 5 October.
Greece’s Covid-19 risk map unveiled
Greece unveils online map with Covid-19 risk by regional unit.
EU: Common approach on Covid-19 travel measures
EU ministers agree to coordinate better on Covid-19 travel measures with a 3-common criteria, a color-coded map and a framework for possible restrictions.
Masks mandatory everywhere & night curfew in Greece
Masks must now be worn everywhere in Greece and a night curfew goes into effect for high-risk areas.
Covid-19 cases in Greece surge and the Greek government makes changes to its Covid-19 risk map (divides the country into two risk zones) and sets new rules for November. The government closes restaurants, bars, cinemas, and museums in high-risk areas and imposes lockdowns initially on specific areas (Thessaloniki and Serres) and then puts the whole country in its second lockdown on November 7 aiming to halt the second wave of Covid-19 cases.
Greece creates Covid-19 ‘risk zones’, applies new measures
- The government divides Greece into three risk zones (yellow/red/grey) and sets new measures.
- Greece puts Thessaloniki and Serres in a two-week lockdown and bans flights to/from Thessaloniki for that period.
Second national lockdown in Greece
Greece enters its second national lockdown.
Greece announces night curfew
Greece announces a night curfew from 9 pm to 5 am, aiming to further limit movement in the country to curb the rise of Covid-19 cases.
Greece gets access to over €2bn EU funds
Greece gains access to over 2 billion euros worth of funds from the EU’s SURE instrument, which is aimed to help companies and employees affected by Covid-19.
Covid-19 vaccination plan announced
Greece announces Covid-19 vaccination plan. Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias announces that free Covid-19 vaccination will be possible at 1,018 points across Greece, once the first effective drugs are made available.
Greece extends lockdown
Greece’s second lockdown is extended until 7 December.
Although Greece’s lockdown is scheduled to end in early December, the persistent Covid-19 curve forces Greek authorities to extend its duration until January.
Also, new measures are announced for travelers entering the country in December.
Following the lockdown extension, the Greek Finance Ministry announces a new round of 7.5 billion euros in Covid-19 relief aid for businesses and employees for 2021.
Strict Covid-19 restrictions are announced for the Christmas and New Years holidays that include a curfew, no travel between prefectures, and mandatory text messaging for all movement.
During December, a number of EU countries begin suspending air traffic from the UK due to a new mutant strain of Covid-19 (later referred to as the “Delta” variant) that has been spreading in England.
This is also the month when EU states begin vaccinations against Covid-19. The first vaccines are scheduled to arrive in EU member states to be used during the #EUVaccinationDays on 27, 28 and 29 December.
In addition, in the midst of the pandemic, December 31, 2020, marks the UK’s last day as a member of the EU (Brexit).
WHO urges Greeks to vaccinate against Covid-19
World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director Hans Kluge visits Greece and urges Greeks to vaccinate against Covid-19 when the time comes.
Greece pushes second lockdown to mid-December
The Greek government extends Greece’s second Covid-19 lockdown.
Land border points restrictions tightened
Authorities tighten restrictions at Greece’s land border points and deny entry to travelers that test positive for Covid-19 upon arrival.
3-day quarantine imposed to travellers
All incoming travellers arriving to Greece for the holidays as of December 18 must quarantine for 3 days. The measure is to be lifted on 7 January.
7-day self-isolation to travellers from the UK
All travelers arriving to Greece from the UK must self-isolate for 7 days.
Greece gets first batch of vaccines for Covid-19
Greece receives the first batch of coronavirus vaccines.
Covid-19 vaccinations begin
Covid-19 vaccinations begin in Greece in accordance with the country’s vaccination operation “Eleftheria”.
- UNWTO: 2020 Goes Down in History as Worst Year for Tourism Sector
- ECTAA: 2020, the Year Travel Stopped
- IATA: 2020 Worst Year in History for Air Travel Demand
- UFI: Exhibition Sector Sees Loss of €158bn in 2020 Turnover
- BoG: Arrivals, Travel Receipts Take a Blow in 2020
- WTTC: Tourism Drop Wiped Out €23bn from Greek Economy in 2020
- HCAA: Greece Air Traffic Nosedives to 30-year Low in 2020
- IOBE: Greece’s Passenger Shipping Sector Sees Heavy Revenue Loss in 2020
- ITEP: 40% of Greece’s Hotels Closed in 2020 / Turnover Down by 78%
- Greece’s Exhibitions and Meetings Industry Sees Losses Exceeding €200m
Greece’s second lockdown continues well into the new year. Lockdown restrictions keep on getting extensions due to a constant rise in cases. In efforts to support businesses and employees out of work due to Covid-19 restrictions, the Greek government announces new aid for January.
Meanwhile, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, once the year changes to 2021, the UK is no longer part of the European Union (Brexit).
UK Nationals allowed to enter Greece
Following Brexit, Greece adds the UK to a list of non-EU countries exempt from Covid-19 entry restrictions.
7-day quarantine for travelers from abroad
Greece announces 7-day quarantine measure for passengers arriving from abroad.
UNWTO welcomes Greek PM’s proposal
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) welcomes Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ proposal for an EU-wide Covid-19 vaccination certificate.
Greece proposes 3 steps to restart tourism
During a UNWTO meeting in Madrid, Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis proposes 3 steps (Covid-19 vaccination, rapid testing and exchange of data) to restart tourism.
Greek digital Covid-19 vaccination certificate announced
Greece announces its national digital Covid-19 vaccination certificate.
4-phase Covid-19 vaccination plan announced in Greece
Greek health authorities announce a four-phase Covid-19 vaccination plan for people on the Greek islands.
Region of Attica goes ‘Red’
Attica enters ‘Red’ Covid-19 status, following a 45% rise in new infections. Stricter measures are imposed.
Covid-19 restrictions continue in Greece and as the month progresses the government announces stricter measures for Athens-Attica, Evia, Achaia and later Nafplio. Rumors begin to surface that the government may keep lockdown measures through Easter (2 May). In mid-February, the government announces for the first time that when travel resumes in 2021, Greece will be open to all visitors holding either a negative molecular Covid-19 test or a vaccination certificate upon entry.
Greeks can now download their digital vaccination certificate
Residents in Greece who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 can now download their digital vaccination certificate from the gov.gr website.
Athens hotels get high rating for Covid-19 safety measures
GBR survey shows that international and Greek travelers gave Athens hotels a high rating for the Covid-19 safety measures implemented in 2020.
The Greek Tourism Ministry announces that Greece will open for tourism on 14 May. This is later confirmed by the PM himself. Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis begins official visits to countries as part of an awareness-raising effort ahead of Greece’s re-opening to tourists. The first country he visits is Romania.
In mid-March the European Commission moves forward with Greece’s proposal on a digital certificate to facilitate travel in the summer.
Greece presents tourism/travel pan-European revival plan
Greece presents tourism and travel pan-European revival plan to EU ministers during a meeting organised by Portugal as holder of the presidency of the Council of the EU.
#filoxeniaMoU action launches
The Hellenic Chamber of Hotels launches the #filoxeniaMoU Greek hospitality action, a month-long initiative dedicated to the importance of hospitality in the recovery of tourism.
Greece announces 2021 tourism opening
Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis announces that Greece aims to open to tourism on 14 May.
WTTC praises Greece for steps taken to restart international travel
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) praises the Greek government for its efforts and steps taken to restart international travel from 14 May.
EU proposes common digital COVID certificate for travel
The European Commission makes a legislative proposal for the launch of a common digital COVID certificate (initially referred to as a Digital Green Certificate) to facilitate safe free movement inside the EU during the pandemic, an idea first tabled in January by Greece’s PM himself.
Covid-19 lockdown restrictions eased
Greece begins to ease some Covid-19 lockdown restrictions and reopens hair and beauty salons, open-air archaeological sites, public parks and allows fishing again.
Quarantine rule for vaccinated Israeli tourists lifted
Greece lifts Covid-19 quarantine rule for vaccinated Israeli tourists.
Covid-19 self-testing strategy announced
Greece announces Covid-19 self-testing strategy to identify asymptomatic cases and better control the spread of the coronavirus.
Greece gets extra €2.5bn under EU’s SURE tool
Greece welcomes an extra €2.5 billion under the European Commission’s SURE tool that helps jobs and incomes affected by Covid-19.
The month of April kicks off with Greece giving details on how it will open safely for tourism in 2021. Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis continues his trips to countries ahead of Greece’s re-opening to tourists. In April he visits Russia and the United States.
The Greek government continues to gradually ease some lockdown restrictions and reopens retail stores under Covid-19 guidelines.
At the end of the month, the Greek Health Ministry announces an action plan for the summer that includes emergency transport from remote islands and a high number of medical professionals stationed at health facilities at popular tourist destinations.
Also in April, the Bank of Greece releases final data on Greece’s arrivals and revenue during 2020. Greece saw travel receipts plummet by 76.2% or down by 13,860 million euros to 4.3 billion euros with the number of arrivals down by 78.2% bringing the total number of tourists to Greece in 2020 to only 7.4 million compared to 34 million in 2019.
Greece’s restart tourism proposals become UNWTO recommendations
The UNWTO approves Greece’s proposals to restart tourism and adopts them as recommendations for its member-countries.
Rhodes welcomes its first tourists for 2021
The Greek island of Rhodes welcomes its first tourists as part of a pilot holiday program organized by a Dutch tour operator.
7-day quarantine rule for EU, US, UK travelers lifted
- Greece lifts 7-day quarantine rule for travelers from the EU and five other countries (US, UK, UAE, Serbia and Israel) who have been fully vaccinated or test negative for Covid-19. Authorities also allow road travelers (who are vaccinated or have a negative test) through the Promachonas and Nymphaea road borders.
- Greece announces that its tourism workers are in its Covid-19 vaccine priority line.
Easter holiday travel banned
Greece bans Easter holiday travel and keeps the rule that prohibits travel between regions (until 14 May).
Health protocols for Greek hotels updated
Greece releases updated health protocols for hotels.
Greece gets WTTC award for Covid-19 crisis management
The World Travel & Tourism Council awards Greece for its efforts in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic and safely re-opening to tourists.
Greece submits national recovery plan to EU
Greece submits its national recovery plan (aimed at dealing with the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic) to the European Commission.
May finds Greece in discussions with various non-EU countries on mutual recognition of vaccine certificates. Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis continues his visits to Greece’s target tourism markets and travels to Germany, Poland, the UK, Spain and France. This is also the month when Greece reopens its organized beaches, restaurants, cafes, museums. The country also allows live cultural events and shows to resume in outdoor areas.
Greece officially opens to tourism on 14 May with entry allowed for EU & Schengen Area countries and a number of non-EU countries such as the US, the UK, Russia, China and UAE. Visitors to Greece do not have to quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated, have recovered from the virus or have tested negative before traveling.
In late May Greece unveils its version of the EU Digital COVID Certificate (formally referred to as the Digital Green Certificate) that aims to facilitate travel in the EU.
In addition, Greece this month moves up six spots to 33rd place (out of 53 countries) on Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking which reports on the best places to be during Covid-19 and the effectiveness of local authorities’ health crisis management.
Meanwhile, on the vaccination front, Greek Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias on 21 May announces that Greece’s vaccination program is progressing at a very fast pace and that the country is carrying out more than 100,000 vaccinations a day.
“Blue Freedom” vaccination plan for Greek islands
Greece moves ahead with its newly announced “Blue Freedom” plan that prioritizes Covid-19 vaccination of its islands, aiming to ensure the safety of both residents and tourists.
‘All you want is Greece’ campaign launches
Greece officially launches its 2021 tourism campaign named “All you want is Greece” which goes beyond promoting “sun and sea”.
Greece opens for 2021 tourism season
Greece opens for the 2021 tourism season under a plan that includes strict health safety protocols and procedures.
Covid-19 self-testing mandatory for Greek tourism workers
Employees in Greece’s tourism sector are among those that must undergo mandatory self-testing for Covid-19 once a week.
Greece not on UK’s “green” travel list
The UK government resumes international travel but does not include Greece on its ‘green’ list, meaning that restrictions will apply to people returning from the country.
EU Digital COVID Certificate on track
The European Parliament and Council announce that the EU Digital COVID Certificate will be ready by the end of June.
Greece expands Covid-19 self-testing strategy
The Greek government’s Covid-19 self-testing strategy, which aims to detect asymptomatic cases, has expanded to all employees in Greece.
In early June, a new OECD report says Greece’s GDP is expected to grow by 3.8 percent against its previous prediction of 3.4 percent. At the same time, in 2022 the economy is expected to grow by 5 percent, the report said, forecasting return to pre-Covid-19 levels mid-year.
Also, Greece made “reopening progress”, according to Bloomberg, moving up the resilience ranking from 33rd spot in May to 19th in June making it into the Top 20 best places to be in during Covid-19.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that the Delta variant (first detected in India in late 2020 and named on 31 May 2021) is becoming the dominant strain globally.
Greek authorities discuss action plan to address the possible spread of the new Covid-19 Delta variant, including ordering lockdowns in areas with low vaccination rates. According to EODY, Delta infections are found in Athens, Corinth and on Crete.
In late June, Eurostat releases data showing that overnight stays in Greece were among the hardest hit in the EU between April 2020 and March 2021 due to the impact of Covid-19.
Also during June, Greek Finance Minister Christos Staikouras says the Covid-19 health crisis in the 2020-2021 period has cost the Greek government 40 billion euros, which has gone into supporting impacted businesses, employees and households.
In addition, continuing his tour to countries whose citizens have a high interest for travel to Greece, Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis visits The Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden.
It should also be mentioned that Greece continues in June to be absent from the United Kingdom’s ‘green list’ of quarantine-free destinations and remains on the ‘amber’ list, meaning that restrictions apply to people returning to England after visiting the country.
The UK constitutes the second biggest market for Greece after Germany.
Athens hosts 66th UNWTO Commission for Europe Meeting
Athens hosts the 66th Meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Europe as an in-person event.
COVID Certificate holders accepted in Greece
- Greece begins accepting travelers from abroad that hold a Digital COVID Certificate.
- According to reports, Greek authorities are thinking about granting “privileges” to vaccinated residents.
Greece lifts music ban at bars, restaurants
Greece lifts its ban on music at restaurants, bars and cafes.
EU Digital COVID Certificate for travel is official
The EU Digital COVID Certificate is signed into law by EU institutions. It has been agreed to launch on July 1.
EU approves Greek ‘Ellada 2.0’ recovery plan
The European Commission approves Greece’s resilience plan, paving the way for the release of 30.5 billion euros.
Greek spas and thermal springs reopen
Greek authorities allow spas/thermal springs to reopen.
Negative Covid-19 rapid tests now accepted for entry in Greece
Greece permits entry for travelers who present negative Covid-19 rapid antigen tests.
Europe on high alert due to ‘Delta’ variant spread
Europe on high alert due to ‘Delta’ (variant of SARS-CoV-2) spread. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) begins to urge EU nationals to get vaccinated due to the Delta variant of COVID-19 (called a “variant of concern” by WHO because of its high transmissibility).
Greece discusses action plan to address ‘Delta’
- Greek authorities discuss action plan to address the possible spread of the new Covid-19 Delta variant, including ordering lockdowns in areas with low vaccination rates. According to EODY, Delta infections were found in Athens, Corinth and on Crete.
- Greece scraps mandatory wearing of masks outdoors.
Greece lifts late night curfew
- Greece lifts its late night curfew.
- Greek authorities prepare to announce special rights for the fully vaccinated including greater freedom of movement, access to indoor and crowded spaces as well as other liberties.
- The Greek government announces the “Freedom Pass” (available end of July): a pre-paid card worth 150 euros to cover costs for travel and entertainment, awarded to those aged 18-25 who get vaccinated.
Greece decides vaccinated-only and mixed spaces as of mid-July
In its drive to extend vaccination reach, Greece announced that as of July 15, entertainment and F&B venues would be divided into Covid-19 vaccinated-only and mixed spaces.
Stricter measures for those arriving to Greece from Russia
Greece imposes stricter measures for those arriving to Greece from Russia due to the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant in the country.
In early July, the European Commission releases its Summer 2021 Economic Forecast and says the Greek economy is expected to expand by 4.3 percent in 2021 and 6 percent in 2022.
A few days later the Commission officially approves the recovery plans of 12 member states including the “Greece 2.0” plan, paving the way for the release of the first tranche of funding to go toward addressing the impact of Covid-19. Later in July, the Greek government and the Commission sign the first funding agreement which covers financial support of 17.8 billion euros to Greece.
Meanwhile, Covid-19 cases in Greece are rising. In the middle of the month, Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis says the increase of Covid-19 cases is not related to tourism. According to data presented by the minister, during the first 10 days of July, 105,609 arrivals were tested at Greece’s border points and only 74 positive cases recorded. In statements made to the media, the minister says that vaccination is the key to keeping the country open for tourists.
At the same time, Greektourism professionals revise downwards their projections for 2021 in view of an imminent fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Industry insiders are telling the press that recovering 50 percent or approximately 9.1 billion euros of 2019 tourism activity – the government’s target – is “near to impossible”.
On July 21, the chief economic advisor of the Greek Prime Minister, Alex Patelis, tweets that Greek tourist arrivals in 2021 are already at 60 percent of 2019 levels.
EU Digital COVID Certificate launches
- The EU Digital COVID Certificate, which will facilitate safe free movement within the European Union during the Covid-19 pandemic, officially launches.
- Greece reopens indoor cinemas and theaters only for the vaccinated.
Greece opens to more non-EU tourists
Greece eases Covid-19 travel restrictions for non-EU citizens arriving from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Jordan, Moldova, Brunei and Kosovo.
Negative self tests no longer accepted for domestic travel
- Negative self-test results for Covid-19 are no longer accepted as a document for passengers to board a domestic flight or ferry to travel to the Greek islands from the mainland.
- Greek health experts warn of an imminent fourth wave of the Covid virus, which they say will strike at the end of July or early August.
- Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis announces that mobile units would be set up at tourist destinations countrywide to accelerate vaccinations against Covid-19.
Greece’s ‘seated-only’ rule goes into effect
Greece’s “seated-only” rule goes into effect at restaurants, bars, cafes, and entertainment venues.
Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for nursing home caregivers
Nursing home caregivers in Greece are announced to be the first required by law to get vaccinated.
Covid Pass app launches – Sports venues for vaccinated-only
- Development & Investments Minister Adonis Georgiadis announces that in-person events and exhibitions would be allowed as of September 1 only for Covid-19 vaccinated participants.
- Greece’s Covid Pass app (an application for restaurant and F&B business owners to check the validity of health/vaccination status information of customers) goes into effect.
- Greece reopens indoor or outdoor sports venues only for vaccinated spectators.
Greece launches Covid Free badges for entertainment venues
- All indoor areas of nightclubs, bars, cinemas and theaters in Greece begin to operate exclusively for vaccinated people.
- Greece launches Covid Free badges at entertainment (including restaurants and bars) and recreational venues. The three new badges indicate: if the establishment is a mixed space; if a venue is Covid free; and if staff members are fully vaccinated.
Curfew and Music Ban for Mykonos
- New Covid-19 measures (including a curfew and music ban) are imposed on the island of Mykonos due to a sharp rise in cases.
- Unvaccinated workers in tourism, coastal shipping (ferries) and the food & beverage sector in areas where Covid-19 have increased (Heraklion and Rethymno on Crete and on the islands of Mykonos, Ios, Paros and Santorini) – due to the fast spread of the Delta variant – will have to test for Covid-19 twice a week.
Freedom Day: Boris Johnson lifts Covid-19 restrictions in England
The UK dubs July 19 “Freedom Day” as Boris Johnson lifted the vast majority of the remaining Covid-19 restrictions in England. With regard to travel, fully vaccinated Brits are no longer required to quarantine for 10 days after returning to England from amber list destinations – including Greece.
Freedom Pass: Greece gives travel gift card to the young that get vaccinated
Greece’s “Freedom Pass” program, offering 18- to 25-year-olds who get vaccinated against Covid-19 a pre-paid card worth 150 euros (which covers costs for travel and entertainment), goes into effect.
Obligatory Covid vaccination for certain groups
Greek parliament passes amendment that foresees obligatory vaccination for all private and public sector employees in health and senior care facilities and hospitals as well as for ambulance and nursing staff by September 1.
Mykonos says goodbye to Covid measures – Athens Airport gets €110m in support
- The additional Covid-19 restrictive measures on Mykonos are lifted.
- All unvaccinated workers in the tourism and food & beverage sectors in Greece have to test for Covid-19 twice a week, according to a government decision.
- The European Commission approves a 110-million-euro aid to compensate Athens International Airport S.A. for the damages suffered due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Greek islands getting ‘red’ – PLF can be filled out anytime before flight
- Greek authorities warn that Mykonos and Ios are “one step away from strict measures” and that more Greek islands (such as Zakynthos, Tinos, Lefkada, Santorini, Paros and Rhodes) are reaching ‘red’ Covid-19 status due to a rise in cases.
- All travelers to Greece can now submit the mandatory Passenger Locator Form (PLF) any time before the departure of their flight – and not strictly 24 hours before, as was the case previously.
In early August, the Greek authorities say that some 55 percent of the population is vaccinated against Covid-19 and once again make calls for the unvaccinated to get the jab.
In mid-August, infectious disease expert Charalambos Gogos says the rise in Covid-19 cases in Greece cannot be attributed to inbound travelers, citing data that (at the time) showed the percentage of “imported cases” was “very small” at 0.59 percent.
Meanwhile, tourism flows to Greece gain momentum despite the rise in Covid-19 cases and August’s devastating fires, driven by a strong demand from European travelers, according to tourism stakeholders and data released by Eurocontrol, global travel data provider OAG, the National Bank of Greece, Fraport Group, and local hoteliers’ associations.
As cases continue to rise, on 24 August the Greek government, aiming to stop the spread of Covid-19 and to protect the public health system, announces new measures for admission to indoor spaces including restaurants and bars and testing requirements that will go into effect on 13 September.
Greek authorities, expecting a surge in cases when Greeks return from their summer holidays and temperatures drop, examine the possibility of making vaccination against Covid-19 mandatory for certain professional groups.
Towards the end of August, Alternate Development & Investments Minister Yannis Tsakiris announces that the first funds to tourism enterprises seeking support will be released in the first days of September. (More than 30,000 applications for support have been submitted from businesses – 11,000 in tourism – seeking to tap into some 250 million euros in resources.)
Meanwhile, on 31 August, Vassilis Kikilias, takes over as new minister of tourism. He had previously served as Greece’s health minister. Outgoing tourism minister was Harry Theoharis.
Mobile vaccine units to give hotel workers the jab
The Greek government announces that it will deploy mobile vaccination units in order to facilitate hotel workers that wish to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
England opens to fully vaccinated EU and US travelers
The UK decides that all travelers from Europe and the US who have been fully vaccinated no longer have to quarantine when entering England from amber list countries.
US issues advisory against travel to Greece
Americans – vaccinated or not – are advised against traveling to Greece due to a “very high” risk of Covid-19 following revised guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the State Department.
Greece opens to flights from Turkey
Greece adds Turkey to the “safe list” of countries and territories whose residents are eligible to enter provided they have the required documentation.
Zakynthos & Chania see new Covid-19 measures
New Covid-19 measures (including a curfew and music ban) are imposed on the island of Zakynthos and in Chania (Crete) due to a sharp rise in cases.
Greece accepting most Covid-19 vaccines for travel
- Greece recognizes more vaccine types for entry of travelers making it among the few countries in the world recognizing the largest number of Covid-19 vaccines.
- Greece is included on Israel’s “severe travel warning” or “orange list” issued to curb the spread of the Covid-19 Delta variant. Travelers, vaccinated or not, returning to Israel from Greece, the US, France, Italy, Germany and several other countries are required to quarantine for at least seven days.
IATA Travel Pass accepts EU and UK Digital Covid certificates
Users of IATA’s digital Travel Pass can now upload EU and UK Covid-19 vaccination data to the mobile app.
Covid-19 testing on arrival for unvaccinated travelers from 13 countries
Unvaccinated travelers entering Greece from 13 countries (Egypt, Albania, Argentina, Brazil, Georgia, Cuba, the United Arab Emirates, India, China, Libya, Morocco, Russia and Turkey) – regardless of nationality – are required to take a Covid-19 test on arrival.
More unvaccinated travelers must take rapid test on arrival in Greece
Unvaccinated travelers – regardless of nationality – entering Greece from Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Pakistan are now required to take a rapid Covid-19 test on arrival.
Greece releases Covid-19 rules for conferences and exhibitions
- People wanting to attend conferences, exhibitions and trade fairs in Greece will now need to have a Covid-19 vaccination certificate or a recovery certificate with them.
- The Greek Health Ministry provides two self-tests for free to certain groups (unvaccinated public and private sector workers, unvaccinated persons aged 5-30 years old) from pharmacies through to September 6, “strongly advising” returning holidaymakers to get tested before going home.
- The UK keeps Greece, along with Spain, France, and Portugal, on its “amber list” (Covid-19 traffic-light travel system), which means that returning non-vaccinated travelers or those planning to visit Britain will be required to quarantine for 10 days.
- The European Council advises Covid-19 travel restrictions on visitors from the United States and Israel.
EU approves €500m for Greek companies hit by Covid-19
The European Commission approves a Greek scheme with an estimated budget of up to 500 million euros to support the uncovered fixed costs of companies affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
On September 2, Alpha Bank releases a report concluding that Greek tourism recovered significantly in the summer of 2021. However, the report warns that risks still remain, such as the worsening of the Covid-19 epidemiological data and the future negative effects of the recent wildfires.
Throughout the month, official data reveals the positive performance of Greek tourism in 2021.
For example, Eurocontrol data says that Greece during the last week of August had 2,042 flights on a daily basis, only 3 percent less compared to the corresponding week two years ago (2019), before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Also positive for Greece is the European Travel Commission (ETC) survey (“Monitoring Sentiment for Domestic and Intra-European Travel – Wave 8”) which says the country is among the 10 destinations on European traveler bucket lists for both summer and autumn 2022.
At the end of September, European Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni says that Greece is moving faster towards growth approaching pre-Covid-19 crisis levels.
Also in September Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announces that Greece’s economic growth forecast for 2021 has been revised upwards, from 3.6 percent to 5.9 percent.
Meanwhile, on the Covid-19 front, cases continue to rise in Greece. The government announces restrictions for unvaccinated individuals, which will be in force until March 31, 2022. The new restrictions see the unvaccinated having to undergo rapid Covid-19 antigen tests in order to enter most indoor areas, considering that they have tested negative. On the other hand, some establishments with indoor areas will not allow unvaccinated individuals to enter in general.
Greek health authorities rule out the possibility of a country-wide lockdown but note that local Covid-19 restrictions will be ordered should the need arise.
The Covid-19 health committee of experts also considers admission into all public services to be allowed only to holders of a Covid-19 certificate or recovery document, or with negative rapid test results.
In-person events and exhibitions restart in Greece
- In-person events, trade fairs and exhibitions in Greece can open their doors as of September 1 with Covid-19 protocols. Entrance is allowed only to those holding certificates indicating full vaccination status or Covid-19 recovery. Unvaccinated participants will be subject to testing.
- Healthcare workers are now required by law to get vaccinated.
70% of EU adult population fully vaccinated against Covid-19
The EU reaches a crucial milestone with 70 percent of the adult population now fully vaccinated against Covid-19. In total, by August 31, over 256 million adults in the EU had received a full vaccine course.
Greece stays open to American travelers despite EU recommendation
- Greece is among the European countries that do not follow an EU recommendation to curb nonessential travel for visitors from the United States and keeps its borders open for American tourists.
- Greek authorities impose emergency restrictions (curfew/music ban) on the regional units of Achaia and Ilia in the Peloponnese, as well for the Ikaria Municipality, in efforts to limit the spread of Covid-19.
Greece imposes Covid-19 restrictions on more areas
Greek authorities impose emergency restrictions (curfew/music ban) on more areas (Argolida and Evritania) and extend measures on the regional units of Heraklion, Achaia, Ilia, Messinia and the municipality of Ikaria.