Greek PM Mitsotakis sees COVID situation improving 'dramatically'

FILE PHOTO: People enjoy the beach following the easing of measures against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Faliro suburb, near Athens, Greece, April 3, 2021. REUTERS/Costas Baltas/File Photo

(Reuters) - Falling COVID-19 case numbers and more vaccinations will permit Greece to open its vital tourism sector next week, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Wednesday, adding he was "very, very sure" the situation would be much better in a month's time.

On May 15 Greece plans to lift travel restrictions on foreign visitors who have been vaccinated or have negative test results. Tourism accounts for about a fifth of Greece's economy and jobs market, and after the worst year on record for the sector last year the country can ill afford another lost summer.

Mitsotakis said a combination of widespread testing, immunisation, and the fact that many activities would take place outdoors gave authorities confidence that tourists would be able to visit safely.

"I do expect the situation to improve dramatically over the next months," he told a digital conference organised by the Financial Times.

Mitsotakis said he was optimistic about the prospects for post-pandemic recovery and expected a significant rebound after an 8.2% fall in GDP last year, helped by the European Union's Recovery and Resilience Fund.

"I'm very, very confident it will add additional firepower to turbocharge our recovery once the pandemic is over," he said.

The programme, featuring a mix of digital and green investments and spending on social cohesion and training measures, is expected to lift Greece's GDP by 3.6% this year and 6.2% in 2022.

Mitsotakis said reforms of labour laws and supplemental pensions would continue, but he said Greece had clearly left behind the decade-long financial crisis and the harsh austerity measures imposed by international creditors.

"I would clearly distinguish between reforms and austerity. We are no longer in an austerity phase," he said.

(Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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