Coronavirus: Greece considers new lockdowns as tourists bring wave of infections
Latest rise in Covid-19 cases threatens Greece’s crucial tourism sector
Health officials in Greece are considering new local lockdowns and compulsory use of masks to help stem the rising number of coronavirus cases linked to tourism.
More than 100 travellers have tested positive for the virus since Greece reopened its borders to tourists on July 1.
Fifty-eight new cases of Covid-19 were reported on Tuesday, with 28 of those linked to visitors.
The country has already announced tougher border checks on incoming travellers, and more inspections of restaurants and other tourist spots.
The government is now considering making masks mandatory in all indoor public spaces.
Local authorities have said that guidelines meant to help control the virus are often ignored.
Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said Athens remained “determined to protect the majority from the frivolous few".
Despite the added infections, Greek Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias was adamant the country should continue to protect its tourism sector.
“We all knew, ourselves and our scientists and experts, that the opening of the borders would bring a partial rise in cases,” Mr Kikilias said on Tuesday.
He was speaking after a meeting between government officials and health experts to determine the country’s next moves.
“On the other hand, everyone understands that with public health, medical protocols and respect for human life coming first, the economy and tourism also have to survive,” Mr Kikilias said.
Greece, which so far seems to have escaped the worst of the pandemic, has pressed on with reopening tourism to try to save its economy.
Tourism accounts for nearly a fifth of the country’s GDP, employs one in 10 Greek workers and hit record highs in 2018 when 33.1 million arrivals were recorded, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said.
The recent rise in cases threatens to thwart the government’s efforts to salvage the busy summer season but Mr Kikilias said reintroducing measures to fight the virus would depend on how well the existing guidelines held up.
“It all depends on us, on our individual behaviour, on public health regulations and how we deal with any given situation,” he said.
Greece has reported 3,883 cases of the virus, with 193 deaths, data from Johns Hopkins University shows.
Updated: July 16, 2020 03:04 AM