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COVID-19: Greece to open borders to foreign tourists by mid-May

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By Euronews
Tourists fill up their water bottles, in front of the ancient temple of Parthenon at Acropolis Hill, in Athens, July 31, 2020.
Tourists fill up their water bottles, in front of the ancient temple of Parthenon at Acropolis Hill, in Athens, July 31, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris
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Greece and Cyprus will reopen their borders to foreign tourists in May.

Foreign tourists who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, have recovered from the disease or who test negative prior to their arrival will be allowed into Greece from May 14, Tourism Minister Harris Theocracis announced on Tuesday.

The government hopes that the epidemiological situation will allow for restrictive measures across the country to be progressively eased before then.

"All tourist may be subjected to random tests, in the same way as last year. However, a significant difference compared to last year is the rapid test, thanks to which the quarantine for positive cases will start immediately, and not 24 hours later like in 2020," he added.

He also said that tourists' COVID-19 medical costs will be borne by the Greek state but stressed that "what applies to Greek citizens, will apply to tourists" including the mandatory use of face masks in public places.

The government will test its approach from April with a pilot programme with travellers from the European Union "as well as other countries of departure where the vaccination has progressed, such as Israel.

"I emphasise however, that all opening dates and indicative and may change, depending on developments," Theocracis stressed.

A nighttime curfew is currently in vigour across Greece. Other measures depend on the area's epidemiological situation but include the closure of non-essential shops, a ban on travel between different parts of the country, and limits on public gatherings.

The announcement from Athens came a day after Cyprus announced that it would allow vaccinated Britons to visit the island from May 1.

Deputy Minister for Tourism Savvas Perdios told the Cyprus News Agency that only people who had received their second dose of the vaccine at least seven days before travelling would be allowed in.

"This is a very important development for tourism and follows of the arrangement with Israel, as (the two countries) they are two of Cyprus’ main tourist markets," Perdios said.

Tourists will still have to comply with local measures including wearing a mask and social distancing and authorities said they reserve the right to carry out tests on passengers, including vaccinated people.

"We believe that this is an additional step in the right direction, creating the necessary stability and a sense of security for travellers so they could plan their holiday in the coming summer. It is another step which shows that Cyprus will be ready to welcome them in the summer," Perdios said.

Tourists from EU member states have been allowed into Cyprus since March 1 based on the colour-coded classification system from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Travellers from "orange" and "red" countries have to undergo a PCR test prior to and upon arrival and submit to quarantine until the results come in.

No member state is classed as "green" in the latest ECDC overview which requires a 14-day incidence rate of below 25 cases per 100,000 population and a test positivity test below four per cent.