If you’re daydreaming of vacations in Greece or considering actually going there this year, think twice. Travel restrictions, or even bans, could appear without notice and complicate your stay. What’s more, Greece is facing a number of country-wide problems on top of the coronavirus pandemic.

A battle on all fronts

Along with the challenge of the pandemic, this summer brings a problematic tourist season and political protests throughout the country.

So far, Greece has done a very good job of halting the spread of the novel coronavirus. The numbers speak louder than words: as of 28 July, they’ve had a little over 4000 confirmed cases of covid-19, 197 deaths and 3,377 full recoveries.

The country even managed to keep infections down after loosening restrictions, unlike some of its Balkan neighbours.

So, what’s the secret?

Though restrictions in Greece began to relax between May and June, they did so slowly and carefully, which might have been key. Even now, those found without a mask in public spaces risk a €150 fine.

Georgios Liberopoulos, who lives in Athens with his family, told me more about the measures taken during lock-down.

A special kind of lock-down

“We had to stay at home for 45 days”, says Liberopoulos. “After lock-down measures came in, everything was closed except supermarkets, hospitals and gas stations. We could go out to buy supplies or for a walk around our neighbourhood, but only with documents proving our identity and address.

Group meetings were illegal and the police controlled everything. If you went out for no reason or without your documents, you had to pay a fine.

People worked from home when it was possible and most continue to do so even now. Those who couldn’t work at all got a 40% rent discount. Some companies shut down, so employers received government help amounting to a part of their salaries.”

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

“The lock-down was very strict. There were two ways to take permission to leave the house: by printing a document with one’s personal details (address, name and reason of going out) or by sending an SMS to the police.

The texts had to include our full name and address, and a number from one to six, which stood for the reason we wanted to go outside. For example, if we were going to the supermarket, we would send our details along with the number 2.

Outside, we had to show police our ID and the SMS, so they could verify the time of sending and if we were close to our home or not.”

Kind of back to normal

“Since May, we’ve slowly started going back to normal. We still need to keep a distance from others and wear a mask in all indoor public spaces.

People didn’t react very positively at the beginning but after seeing how the virus spread in other countries, they accepted the situation.”

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