British tourists land in Greece in big numbers

sifnos island greece

Within 24 hours of the flight ban being lifted on Wednesday, around 1,200 Britons had landed in Greece. By Friday, a reported 200 planes had flown from the UK to the country’s 18 regional airports, according to a report by The Guardian.

“Today, we can’t wait to have them,” said Charalambos Varvarigos, the vice-mayor of Laganas, the Zakynthian resort often associated with youthful hedonism. “We have always had a big soft spot for the English. Only 60% of our hotels are open but they are beginning to come,” he said.

Britons are Greece’s most lucrative European market, with more than 3.5 million visiting last year. Their absence would cost €2.56bn for an industry that, at close to 25% of GDP, is the nation’s biggest.

The spectre of people arriving from a country with “so many cases and so many deaths”, in the words of Greek health officials, has stoked fears of “imported incidents” and unease on islands that had so far remained remarkably coronavirus-free. As a result, UK holidaymakers are having to undergo mass testing in airport lounges nationwide, says The Guardian report.

Local media reports suggest up to 6,000 visitors from the UK will be tested this week, with soldiers being deployed to specially assembled health units on islands to administer swabs.

There has been a significant rise in infections since Greece reopened its borders on July 1 – with officials reporting more than 500 cases, and hospital admissions rising from 41 to 83 in less than two weeks.