Greece resumes island ferry services in bid to salvage tourist season

More than 34 million visitors travelled to Mediterranean country last year

Children gather in front of a Greek Orthodox church on the Aegean Sea island of Milos, Greece, on Sunday. Photograph: AP

Children gather in front of a Greek Orthodox church on the Aegean Sea island of Milos, Greece, on Sunday. Photograph: AP

 

Greece has restarted regular ferry services to its islands, and cafes and restaurants are also back open for business as the country accelerates efforts to salvage its summer tourism season.

Travel to the islands had been generally off-limits since a lockdown was imposed in late March to halt the spread of coronavirus, with only goods suppliers and permanent residents allowed access.

But the country’s low infection rate in the Covid-19 pandemic prompted the government to start the holiday season three weeks earlier than the expected June 15th date, as other Mediterranean countries — including Italy, Spain and Turkey — grapple with deadlier outbreaks.

Greece has had nearly 2,900 infections and 171 deaths from the virus, but Italy has seen nearly 33,000 deaths, Spain 29,000 and Turkey 4,340, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Social distancing regulations and passenger limits have been imposed on ferries and at restaurants to ward off new infections.

State-run health services to combat coronavirus are being expanded to the islands, with intensive care units being placed on five islands — Lesbos, Samos, Rhodes, Zakynthos and Corfu — along with existing facilities on the island of Crete.

Tourism is a vital part of the Greek economy, directly contributing more than 10per cent of the country’s GDP.

More than 34 million visitors travelled to Greece last year, spending €18.2 billion, according to government data. – AP