Tourism not contributing to surge of COVID-19 infections in Greece


FILE PHOTO: An employee wearing a protective mask, leaves a menu on a table at the beach bar of the Divani Apollon Palace hotel, on the first day of the opening of hotels in Greece, following a nationwide lockdown against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Athens, Greece, June 1, 2020. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

ATHENS (Reuters) - Tourism is not to blame for a surge of COVID-19 infections in Greece, the tourism minister said on Wednesday after the government reintroduced restrictions aimed at saving the summer season.

Greece, which relies on tourism for a fifth of its economy, kicked off the season in May, hoping that revenue would reach about half of the record it saw in 2019 when more than 30 million people visited the country.

"The opening of tourism was done very carefully, in the first 10 days of July just 74 out of 105,609 samples taken at the country's entry points were positive, just 0.07%," Haris Theoharis told a Greek hoteliers conference.

"Our country does not have a problem with the opening of its borders," he said. "The rise in infections is not related to tourism."

The government is betting on at least a partial revival of its tourism sector this summer, but is worried about the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

About 41% of Greeks are fully vaccinated so far. Tourists need to show they have been vaccinated or present a negative PCR test to enter the country.

Greece reported 3,109 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, a level last seen in early April, bringing the total number of infections since the first case was detected in February last year to 444,783. COVID-19 related deaths have reached 12,806.

The country will require customers at indoor restaurants, bars and cafes to prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the government said on Tuesday, to combat a surge in infections.

"We can not allow deniers of science to lead our country into adventures," Theoharis said in reference to people still refusing to get vaccinated.

(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos and Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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