June 13, 2020 / 3:05 PM / 20 days ago

Greece ready to open to tourists, PM says safety is top priority

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wears a protective face mask as he speaks with doctors at the hospital of Santorini, following the easing of measures against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), on the island of Santorini, Greece, June 13, 2020. Dimitris Papamitsos/Greek Prime Minister's Office/Handout via REUTERS

ATHENS (Reuters) - The safety of tourists is a top priority for Greece as it opens its airports to foreign visitors, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Saturday on a visit to the popular holiday island of Santorini.

International flights to and from the country’s main airports will resume on June 15, after a nearly three-month lockdown. Accounting for about 20% of Greece’s economic output, tourism is vital for the Mediterranean nation, which emerged from a decade-long debt crisis in 2018.

“It is a great pleasure to be here in Santorini... to send a message: Greece is ready to welcome tourists this summer by putting their safety and their health as a number one priority,” Mitsotakis said.

Famous for its sunsets and black sandy beaches, the volcanic island draws millions of tourists each year.

Greece has boosted numbers of medical staff on its popular islands. Mitsotakis, wearing a surgical mask, also visited health facilities and doctors on Santorini.

The country will conduct coronavirus tests on all visitors arriving from airports deemed high-risk by the European Union’s aviation safety agency EASA from Monday. Visitors will be quarantined up to 14 days, depending on the test result.

Passengers arriving from all other airports will be randomly tested. 

About 33 million tourists visited Greece last year, generating revenues of 19 billion euros.

Restrictions on movement imposed in March helped Greece contain the spread of COVID-19 infections to just above 3,000 cases, a relatively low number compared with elsewhere in the European Union. But it brought its business and tourism sector to a virtual standstill and the country now expects its economy to shrink by up to 13 percent this year.

Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas; Editing by Renee Maltezou and Ros Russell

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