Direct flights to Greek tourist destinations to begin July 1

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A worker places chairs at a fish restaurant ahead of its reopening in Piraeus, near Athens, Wednesday, May 20, 2020.Next Monday, bars, cafes and restaurants will be allowed to serve clients on the premises, with patrons limited to 6 per table, except for families with children. Greece is gradually lifting quarantine restrictions after the lockdown against the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS – Greece's long-awaited tourist season will begin on June 15 with the opening of seasonal hotels and the arrival of the first foreign visitors, while international flights will begin heading directly for holiday destinations gradually as of July 1, the government said Wednesday.

Speaking in a televised address to the nation, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said visitors would be subject to sample coronavirus testing and “our general health protocols will be adhered to, without them, however, overshadowing our bright sun or the natural beauties of Greece.”

Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said a list of countries from which visitors will be able to arrive in Greece will be announced before the end of May. The selection will be based on “epidemiological criteria” as determined by Greece's committee of experts dealing with the pandemic.

Balkan and Baltic countries, Germany and regional countries such as Israel and Cyprus are expected to be in the first wave of those whose citizens will be allowed to enter Greece, he said.

Visitors from those countries will be able to fly into Greece initially only through Athens' international airport as of June 15, Theoharis said. Direct international flights to the rest of the country's airports will resume July 1.

Some countries, however, might be excluded, depending on the situation with their coronavirus outbreaks, the minister said. Those countries would be closely watched, with a view to re-establishing direct flights when the situation allows.

Those arriving will not be subject to mandatory quarantine or blanket testing of all arrivals, but Greek authorities will have the right to carry out sample testing, he said.

Theoharis outlined an operational plan being set in place to tackle any potential outbreaks at tourist destinations, including a designated doctor for each hotel, special quarantine areas and testing facilities on islands.