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Greece and Cyprus suspend COVID measures ahead of tourist season

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By Joshua Askew  with AFP
Empty sunbeds stand in the seaside village of Kokkari on the Greek island of Samos, on Tuesday, June 8, 2021.
Empty sunbeds stand in the seaside village of Kokkari on the Greek island of Samos, on Tuesday, June 8, 2021.   -   Copyright  Petros Giannakouris/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Greece and Cyprus have suspended a number of COVID-19-era public health measures ahead of the high tourist season. 

Wearing a face mask in most places is no longer compulsory in both countries as of Wednesday, save for on public transport and at retirement homes and hospitals. 

Last week the Cypriot government also lifted all requirements at airports, meaning travellers no longer need to present a vaccination certificate or negative PCR test. The Greek government has said it will review the relaxations again on September 1.

Tourism is very important to the pairs' economies and a key source of employment and growth.In 2019, travel and tourism accounted for 21.2 per cent of Greece's GDP, directly employing 381,800 people or around 10 per cent of the country's total workforce. The industry's contribution to Cyprus's economy is similar at 22.7 per cent of yearly GDP. 

The number of infections and deaths from COVID-19 in Greece has fallen in recent weeks. In total, the country has recorded 29,800 COVID-related deaths. Cyprus has a population 10 times smaller and recorded 1,059 deaths.

In 2021, Cyprus saw a year-on-year 51 per cent drop in tourist arrivals. In the year before the pandemic, nearly four million people visited the country: a record-breaking figure.

The number of tourists arriving in Greece increased to 15.2 million in 2021, a jump of nearly eight million on the previous year. But numbers were still way below pre-pandemic levels.