Today’s the big day. The coffee shops, restaurants, gyros bars and tavernas are allowed to open for the first time since mid-March. Those businesses that have decided to reopen today have been a flurry of activity with tape measures to ensure that the correct spacing is maintained for the placement of tables and chairs. On the beaches, umbrellas are being dug in at the approved spacing which, on Symi, is actually not to different to previous years.
At this stage only a handful of businesses on Symi have opted to re-open now. It costs a lot to stock and staff a taverna or restaurant and once you are open for business, the meter starts running on a lot of overheads. Some business owners are still stuck in other countries or parts of Greece as a result of the various travel restrictions and need to make their way back to Greece. Likewise staff may also be in the wrong places and still need to get their health papers sorted out before they can start work. As the country does not open to international tourism of any kind for another 3 weeks, there really isn’t any need to rush.
Today is also the day when people can start travelling on the ferries again. Both of these sound quite straightforward but in reality there is quite a lot of bureaucracy involved including filling in a health form before being able to buy ferry tickets, social distancing on the boats so they are only travelling with half capacity and masks to be worn. Only one person per cabin unless they are members of the same family.
There are also still a lot of restrictions in place regarding vehicle transport. Meanwhile hoteliers, camp site owners and all the others involved in tourism in any shape or form are wading their way through 20 pages of instructions from the Ministry of Tourism concerning cleaning protocols, social distancing requirements, swimming pool hygiene, transfers of tourists from A to B and so on. We may be sure that this summer there will be inspectors for everything – there usually are!
Meanwhile it is still unknown where the tourists will come from to use these facilities. Aside from the fact that many people are wary of travelling at the moment, even if they can, there are still travel restrictions of one sort or another in place, either at the Greek border or out-going/in-coming for other countries. The Greek government has said that they will be issuing a list at the end of this month of the first wave of nationalities that will be welcome to visit Greece, based on epidemiological criteria. We shall have to wait and see.