Spring is in the air and people are starting to make travel plans, regardless of whether their government thinks they should or not. The Greek Minister of Tourism is wooing international tourism and various announcements are being made in the overseas media that create the impression that Greece is already open. The reality on the ground is actually very different. Infection rates in Athens and other regions are higher than ever and Greece is still in a heavy lockdown. Although there is a vaccination program underway it will be many weeks before it is completed.
The following is a summary of where we are at the moment. This may change at any stage but right now this is what is required to travel to Greece and what you can expect should you get here.
At the moment there is a restriction on non-essential travel (tourism) to Greece. The government website travel.gov.gr gives the full information in detail. The salient points are:
- The traveler must have a negative Covid-19 test not more than 72 hours before travelling. The results must be from an approved testing facility, in English and including the traveler’s passport number or ID.
- The traveler must complete a PLF form (available from the link above) 24 hours before traveling and receive the QR code which they must have to be allowed to board the flight. This is the same as last year.
- To travel between municipalities and prefectures once in Greece the traveler must have proof of a valid reason to reach their end destination. A Greek tax certificate (E1) that shows ones tax residence is Symi is accepted proof of the necessity to travel to Symi. (Non-essential internal travel in Greece is still illegal.)
- The traveler must self-isolate for 7 days from arrival at their destination, for example Symi. This means no shopping, walks etcetera for a week. The person must stay at home. For example, if you decide to come to Symi to open up your house for the spring, you must make arrangements before you arrive to have your food supplies delivered so that you don’t have to leave the house or have contact with other people for the 7 days’ isolation. The police can make random checks to make sure that you are at home and they may also call you at random times on your landline telephone to ensure that you are where you ought to be. The fines for violations are serious.
The situation in Greece. Greece is still in hard lockdown. This countrywide lockdown started on 7 November 2020 and has not been lifted. Details of the lockdown and the permit system are given on forma.gov.gr including the format for the SMS system. The salient points are:
- A Greek SIM is required to access the SMS permit system. The reasons for being allowed to leave the house are as follows:
- SMS 1 – medical
- SMS 2 – to shop for food
- SMS 3 – to go to the bank or post office
- SMS 4 – to render assistance to the elderly/vulnerable and to transport spouses/children. Note. It is illegal to give lifts to non family members.
- SMS 5 – to attend a funeral
- SMS 6 – to exercise on foot or by bicycle. Not more than 3 people together.
- The curfew is from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.
- Limited retail may be available from next week, using a Click and Collect system by appointment and using a different coding system. This will have a time limit of 3 hours per day. This is unlikely to affect anything on Symi.
- Cafes can only offer take aways. Bars, tavernas, restaurants etcetera are all closed.
- Masks are to be worn at all times, including outside and social distancing regulations apply.
- Police can stop you at any time to check that you have your SMS permit, your passport or ID and are wearing a mask.
- There is no mixing of households.