Greece reopens some air and sea links as coronavirus lockdown eases

A woman sits next to a chapel in the old port of the Greek Cycladic island of Mykonos, on May 12, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

ATHENS (AFP) - Greece said Friday (May 15) it will reopen some air and sea links from Monday as it begins exiting coronavirus lockdown in the hope the disease is sufficiently under control to allow tourists in.

Visitors will be able to visit all of continental Greece as well as take a ferry to Crete and also the island of Evia, accessible from the mainland by road, civil protection head Nikos Hardalias said.

Until this week, Greeks have been restricted to travel within their home regions under a lockdown which has seen their country spared the worst of the outbreak that has killed tens of thousands in neighbouring Italy.

The country has suffered just 160 deaths to date after swiftly adopting tough measures against the virus spread.

Ferry passengers will have to sign a health questionnaire before embarking, have their temperature taken and wear a face mask while also respecting social distancing.

Vessels will have to travel at half capacity.

Similar guidelines will apply once routes to other islands as well as Italy resume from an as yet unspecified date.

Air passengers will also have to don face masks as domestic flights gradually resume from Monday - some carriers have also announced they will be resuming some flights to fellow EU countries.

Air France has stated it will be resuming Paris-Athens links from May 23.

Greek carrier Aegean says it has planned flights from the end of May to Munich, Zurich, Frankfurt, Geneva and Brussels.

Athens has in the meantime extended until May 31 the suspension of non-EU flights but also those to Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

Greece is anxious to ensure its tourist season can go ahead with the sector accounting for 12 percent of GDP.

A recent IMF forecast indicated the virus will see the country's GDP take a 10 percent hit this year before a 5.5 percent recovery in 2021.

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