Greece blocks UK tourists until Boris Johnson brings coronavirus pandemic under control

Charles Hymas
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British tourists could become pariahs in Europe, as Greece left the UK off a list of low Covid-19 countries from which holidaymakers can come to visit.

Britain is currently excluded from Greece’s current “white list” of 19 countries where its scientists judge the coronavirus infection rates to have fallen enough for tourists to be allowed into the Aegean holiday favourite.

Among those on the list are China, Japan, Australia, Norway, Poland and Serbia but Britain, Italy, Spain and the United States are excluded.

Asked if Britain would be included on the “white list,” Greek tourism minister Haris Theoharis said: “The UK has a big difference in terms of the current medical status of the country with Greece, so I don’t think it’s likely it will be there.” 

He indicated Britain still needed to improve if Greece was to open up its border to British tourists. It restarted regular ferry services to its islands on Monday as it eased its lockdown to salvage its tourism season.

Foreign tourists are currently required to self-isolate for two weeks, but this is due to be relaxed by June 15 and direct flights to the Greek islands are expected to be allowed to resume from July 1.  Official figures yesterday showed the coronavirus curve in the UK continued to flatten although experts suggested the rate of decline was slowing. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said 134 people died from disease, taking the country's total death toll to 37,048.

Greece is not the only European country proposing restrictions on tourists from countries with high rates of coronavirus.

Spain’s foreign ministry said the epidemiological situation in countries of origin would be key in deciding which tourists would be welcome and when.

Spain aims to end its requirement for 14-day quarantine for all international arrivals on July 1 but Arancha González Laya, Spain’s foreign minister, said: “We only want people to come from safe countries, but we don’t want to decide individually what constitutes a safe country. 

“We want to ensure there is a European definition. We don’t want to decide individually what checks are done at the border; we prefer a common European mechanism.” 

Germany, which lifted its quarantine for arrivals earlier this month, said it would not enter into a “tit-for-tat” reintroduction of the restrictions if Britain went ahead with its 14 day quarantine plans on June 8.

But it warned it would reimpose it for countries or regions which had more than 50 infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the seven days before a traveller’s arrival. This would include those hit by any second wave of the infection.

The UK currently has fewer than 25 infections per 100,000, according to Germany, which is expected to tell its citizens today (Wed) that it is safe to travel in Europe again as it looks to reopen the continent to tourism from June 15.

Paul Charles, chief executive of PC Consultancy, a company that advises the tourist industry, said: “European countries are in a very difficult situation. The British are pretty well their biggest visitor numbers and they need them to help their economies to recover.

“But they don’t want to risk bringing coronavirus back into their countries. They are caught between the science of sticking to rigid rules and not creating more cases and the economic rationale of letting in as many people as possible to stoke the economy.”

He anticipated Europe could open up for tourists in July when most of the airlines had scheduled almost as many flights as they did for July 2019 although Britons might have to rely on bilateral agreements for “air bridges” if the Government maintained its 14 day quarantine.

France is introducing a two-week quarantine for British tourists in a tit-for-tat move following the UK Government announcing its plans on Friday.

Italy said it would not introduce “tit-for-tat” quarantine on Britons but wants all EU countries including the UK to collectively abandon restrictions on travel from June 15. "We are working for us to all start over together in Europe on June 15," Luigi Di Maio, the country’s foreign minister.