History of the Greek lockdown
Greece started extremely early with prevention measures against Covid-19
The country had its first case on 26 February, a tourist returning from Italy and the authorities acted almost immediately:
- They banned all the carnivals that were scheduled on the 27th of February
- They closed all schools, nurseries, colleges and universities on 11th March before they had even had one death. The first death was recorded on 12th March.
- They then closed theatres, cinemas, galleries, gyms and nightclubs on 12th March.
- Closed all bars, cafés, tavernas, museums and archaeological sites on 14th March.
- Closed all tourist accommodation on 15th March.
- Introduced compulsory 14 day self-isolation for anyone arriving in Greece from abroad, regardless of nationality on 16th March.
- Closed all shops except food shops and some services on 18th March.
- All non-resident foreign nationals were banned from entry into Greece and all non-residents (Greeks or non- Greeks) were banned from travelling to the islands on ferries from 21st March.
- All hotels were closed except for one in each prefecture (3 in Athens) from 22nd March.
- They then introduced a movement lockdown for everybody on 23rd March.
I think that the government was acutely aware and fearful that the Greek health service, after 10 years of EU mandated cuts, would not be able to deal with a major outbreak. And of course they were watching their next door neighbour, Italy, where things were not going well at all.
Current situation (on the 27th of April)
As it turns out Greece did extremely well at containing the outbreak and is one of the countries in Europe with the lowest prevalence of Covid-19 infections (take this with a grain of salt as there has been very little testing in the normal population) but more importantly very few deaths compared to most European countries.
We expect the lockdown measures to get gradually lifted from the 4th of May (avoiding the big 1st May weekend which is often an occasion for a lot of travelling).
The future and the tourist season 2020
For now Greece is a very safe destination but of course opening up to tourism (and countries that have much higher infection rates than Greece) is playing a dangerous game. But tourism plays a very important role in the economy, especially an economy that was just starting to recover from a 10 years financial crisis.
There is a strong wish (and pressure) to re-open the place so that the tourist season will not be entirely lost.
But in the end what’s going to happen as far as foreign tourism is concerned will not be a matter for the Greek government only. Other countries travel regulations as well as airlines regulations will be the major deciding factor.
For now the optimists think that Greece could re-open to foreign tourism by early July….we will see.
The case of Crete
Crete has had no cases for the past 3 weeks. There has been only one death attributed to Covid-19 (a visiting university lecturer from Germany).
Of course the fact that Crete is an island, is not densely populated and this outbreak was happening entirely outside the tourist season helped things considerably. But even then it is surprising. After all when universities closed on the 11th March students returned to Crete from all over Greece. Apparently no one brought back any infections. Some people (not doctors) assign this to a mysterious force.
Crete’s sense of mystery is extremely deep. Whoever sets foot on this island senses a mysterious force branching warmly and beneficently through his veins, senses his soul begin to grow.
Nikos Kazantzakis, Report to Greco