ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece hopes to be able to set up an “air bridge” with Britain that would allow British tourists to visit from mid-July, its tourism minister said on Friday.
Britons are among the biggest national groups visiting Greece every year but flights from the UK, which has seen a high rate of COVID-19 infections, are currently barred from Greek airports until at least June 30.
Airlines and Britons wanting to take foreign holidays are stepping up pressure on the UK government to form air bridges, where two countries agree to allow travel between them without quarantine measures.
They also want the UK authorities to drop a compulsory 14-day quarantine requirement for all people arriving in the UK. Some countries have reciprocated with a similar requirement for Britons arriving on their territory.
“I think that the most realistic prospect is around the middle of July to remove barriers from both sides,” Tourism Minister Harry Theocharis told Reuters, adding that Greece was also waiting European Union guidelines on the issue.
“We will keep looking at the (epidemiological) data and confirm this perhaps a few days before the middle of July,” he added.
Greece has so far reported 3,321 cases of COVID-19, including 191 deaths, a much lower number than in most western European countries. Britain has so far confirmed more than 300,000 cases, including 43,230 deaths.
Greece reopened its main airports in Athens and Thessaloniki to more international flights on June 15 and hopes to reopen all others on July 1, hoping to kick-start its vital tourism sector after three months in lockdown.
But it has said additional restrictions on non-essential travel from third countries may apply from July 1.
Tourism employs about 700,000 people and accounts for some 20% of Greece’s economic output, so how the sector fares is significant for the country’s recovery. Greece emerged from a decade-long debt crisis two years ago.
Reporting by Deborah Kyvrikosaios, Writing by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Gareth Jones