On July 1, the Greek islands have opened their borders to tourists. I didn't hesitate and immediately left for the sun, the sand, the salty sea and delicious food, all excited. Although several full planes headed for the south depart from Prague Airport every day, the streets, restaurants, bars, hotels and beaches on the islands are still mostly empty. The locals fear the worst. They‘d worship at your feet if it made you want to visit their restaurant.
The whole world was hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The countries of southern Europe, however, received a particularly heavy blow, because 90 % of their economy is based on tourism, which is still mostly dead. A huge number of Czechs stormed Croatia, but not too many are flocking to Greece for fear of catching the virus on a plane. Logically, the locals are afraid that they might not survive until the next season.
"Finally some foreigners! Where are you from?"
asked us an older Greek, known as Catman on Kos, because he takes care of stray cats. "We are hopelessly waiting for tourists here. Just look at this town square! Not a soul around! Normally there are so many people here that you can hardly find a place to sit! This is a disaster for us,"
says a man who calls himself Costa, and the joy in his eyes when he sees a group of Czechs is indescribable.
"The locals are trying to support us by going out for a lunch or a coffee, but it's not enough. If the season doesn't start properly, we will have to close, and we have no idea what we will live on then."
told us the manager of a bar on the square of the capital Kos.
"This situation will never repeat itself again. Everyone who comes to Greece, now in the high season, will experience the unique atmosphere of half-empty beaches and hotels. But there is no reason to be afraid to travel here, the Greeks are very well prepared for everything. "
sales director of the travel agency Blue Style Lenka Pátek assured LP-life.cz.
We are not afraid of the virus
Greece is one of the least affected countries in Europe in terms of the number of infected. In Kos, for example, not a single patient has been reported.
"We are not afraid of the virus. If I were scared, I wouldn‘t come this close to you, and I'm an old man, I'm in the endangered group. We are happy here for every visitor who eats well here, orders a couple of drinks and enjoys our culture,"
"Many businesses haven't opened at all, it doesn't make sense to them when it looks like a ghost town here. For all Greeks, Covid-19 is an total disaster,"
explained the local guide and showed Czech journalists an alley full of bars and restaurants, adding that people used to have fun there until the early morning hours and now all the tables and chairs were empty, which is a very sad reality for the Greeks who love to enjoy themselves and host tourists from all over the world.
Safety above all: Inspections in hotels and at the airport
The Greek government issued strict rules not only for restaurant and bar operators, but also for hoteliers. They introduced served breakfast, lunch and dinner instead of all inclusive.
"The guest shows the staff what he would like and they put whatever he chose on his plate. Safety distances must be kept, everything is immediately disinfected after each guest, and there is no chance that, for example, the same glass would be used twice,"
said the manager of the Akti Beach Club hotel, Anja Polanz. Moreover, there are regular inspections of hotels, and in the event of non-compliance with the rules, huge fines are imposed that can go as high as thousands of euros.
Negative Covid-19 tests are not required in Greece when entering the country, but you may be randomly selected for inspection at the airport. Due to the small number of incoming tourists, the chances are really high. But there is nothing to worry about, samples are taken from just inside the mouth , which is not unpleasant. In case of positivity, the Greeks have special rooms in hotels or hospitals, where the patient would be transported to and treated.