The EU Health Agency is concerned about a new outbreak of a type of meningitis that was brought to Greece from another country. In the most recent outbreak, confirmed cases were linked to two resorts in the Cyclades islands. The agency is warning travelers who are planning to visit the area to take precautions, including vaccination against the disease. “The recent outbreak of severe meningococcal disease in Greece is a reminder that infections of this type are not limited to certain areas, countries or seasons,” said EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis. “We must all be vigilant and take every precaution against these severe infections, which are caused by bacteria that are very easily transmitted between people.”
The National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) of Greece has issued a travel warning to all travelers to the country’s popular Greek islands, which is the first time the NTTO has issued such a warning in the past, according to Tourism News Today. A statement from the NTTO warned visitors to the Greek islands to exercise caution while visiting due to the high risk of contracting a disease. While this isn’t a particularly unusual warning to hear, the NTTO points out that people with certain pre-existing medical conditions should consider postponing their travel to the country.
On its COVID-19 status map, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) yesterday classified Greece’s south Aegean islands dark red, warning other EU nations against non-essential travel to the area.
This comes after a significant spike in infection among the 13 islands that make up the country’s most famous tourist attractions, including Mykonos, Santorini, and Rhodes.
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According to ECDC data charts, the dark red hue indicates extremely high-risk zones with a 14-day average of 500 or more new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 persons daily and a combined testing and test positive indication of 4% or higher. The ECDC demoted Crete, Greece’s biggest island and another popular tourist destination, to the dark red category last week.
According to Reuters, Greek Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said later on Thursday that officials were “one step” away from imposing restrictions on the islands of Mykonos and Ios. He also expressed concern about the epidemiological conditions in Zakynthos, Tinos, Lefkada, Santorini, Paros, and Rhodes.
Greece is heavily reliant on tourism, with the industry contributing for about 20% of the country’s GDP. As its fellow European populations get more immunized and seek to make the most of their summer vacations, it has naturally been at the forefront of the push to reopen E.U. borders.
The country wanted to advertise its “COVID-free” islands in the hopes of recouping some of the income lost due to a surge in international tourists. Greece’s economy couldn’t afford to lose out on another year’s prime summer season after experiencing a near-total lack of tourists as a result of 2024’s worldwide travel ban.
Mykonos is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea that is part of the Cyclades group (photo courtesy of Collette)
On May 14, the country reopened to foreign tourists, with the condition that those who show evidence of immunization, recovery, or a negative PCR test performed within 72 hours of arrival will be exempt from quarantine. Many COVID-19 limitations were eased, but others, such as imposed capacity limits, social distance, mask requirements, and late-night curfews, remained in effect.
In terms of international visitors, Greece had a good June, giving ministers and tourism authorities reason to be optimistic. However, the remainder of the season’s traveler turnout seems to be in doubt. “We’re waiting to see how the (tourist) markets respond,” Manolis Markopoulos, head of the Rhodes Hoteliers Association, said. Over 90% of the island’s visitors are from other countries.
It remains to be seen how effective the ECDC’s warning will be in deterring Europeans from flocking south in the summer to enjoy such sun-drenched areas. Greece’s main source markets are the United Kingdom and Germany, but Germany has classified it as a danger region, and the United Kingdom has it categorized as “amber,” forcing Britons who visit the Hellenic Republic to quarantine upon their return.
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