Greece to resume flights from UK on 15 June with strict rules

The Greek government’s decision to be guided by a blacklist of airports reverses an earlier blanket ban announcement described as ‘misleading’. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

Greece to resume flights from UK on 15 June with strict rules

International passengers from ‘high risk’ Covid-19 areas will be tested and potentially quarantined

in Athens / Published onSun 31 May 2020 13.01 EDT

Greece has announced it is ready to “welcome the world”, and that it will resume flights to the country’s two major airports as of mid-June, including from the UK.

Seeking to clarify a previous announcement, the centre-right government said all air links with Athens and Thessaloniki, the northern capital, will be reinstated from 15 June “in a bridge phase” before direct flights to mainland and island destinations restart on 1 July.

The rules, however, will be strict. Passengers flying in from airports deemed by the EU’s aviation safety agency (EASA) to be in areas with “high risk of transmission of Covid-19” will be required to stay overnight in a designated hotel for testing. “If the test is negative then the passenger self-quarantines for seven days,” said a statement released by the Greek foreign ministry at the weekend. “If the test is positive, the passenger is quarantined under supervision for 14 days.”

Those found to not have the highly contagious virus could continue their journey and self-isolate wherever they were headed, but people who tested positive would be monitored by doctors in a hotel both paid for and appointed by the government, officials said.

“If your travel originated from an airport not in the EASA affected-area list, then you are only subject to random tests upon arrival,” the statement said.

The two-tier system will end and only spot checks will be conducted once direct international flights resume in July.

The Greek government’s decision to be guided by a blacklist of airports assembled by the EU agency reverses an earlier announcement described as misleading.

The tourism ministry published a list of 29 countries on Friday whose citizens would be allowed to enter Greece “and subject to random tests” from 15 June. The eclectic group was said to fit an epidemiological profile with infection rates that have been kept low during the pandemic.

As a Covid-19 hotspot still struggling to contain the disease, the UK was not among them. British media outlets responded by ruing the news of “Brits being banned”. More than 4 million UK citizens travelled to Greece last year, more than from any other nation.

High-ranking officials acknowledged on Sunday that the list had sown more confusion than clarity. “There was recognition the original list was misleading,” said one well-placed source, admitting it had caused unnecessary upset to the country’s allies and friends. The new list, based on information that was constantly updated by EASA, sought to convey that the government’s decisions were not determined by nationality but points of origin, he said. The aviation agency’s latest list, effective as of 29 May, categorises ten UK airports as high risk, including Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester.

Passengers flying to Greece from other UK airports in the bridge phase would only be subject to random testing and would not have to undergo any form of quarantine, unless they tested positive for the virus.

Hugely dependent on tourism, a sector that accounts for almost 25% of GDP, Greece is eager to reopen and capitalise on its successful handling of the pandemic. After enforcing draconian restrictions early on, Greek authorities have recorded fewer than 3,000 coronavirus cases and 175 fatalities. The country, which launches a global campaign this week to promote the feelings of freedom and joy associated with summer in Greece, is also keen to sell itself as a safe destination in the era of Covid-19.