He described as “unfortunate” the decision of the British government to put Greece on the “red list” of countries where the coronavirus is raging, the Minister of Tourism, Haris Theocharis.
The Minister of Tourism spoke to the British Sky News about the decision of the United Kingdom, which has caused great upset to the British tourists. It is recalled that 60,000 British visitors try to leave Greece as soon as possible to avoid mandatory quarantine upon their return.
The presenter of Sky News, Kay Burley, asked the opinion of Mr. Theocharis, who stressed that “it is a very unfortunate decision and is not justified by the data. Let me remind you that 20 cases per 100,000 inhabitants is the limit imposed by the UK government itself and we are somewhere between 13 and 14 , with a downward trend. It is, therefore, a really unfortunate decision, in our opinion “.
Theocharis: We are one of the countries with the lowest levels of coronavirus
The journalist then stated that there are hints that “the Greek government was not completely open about the number of coronavirus cases, in order to be able to maintain tourism in the country.”
Mr. Theocharis replied as follows:
“It simply came to our notice then. We have worked very closely with the British Government. In fact, we have increased the number of tests we do in hotspots, in areas for which they have reservations and we have shared all the data with them. And we are still one of the countries with the lowest coronavirus levels. Certainly not. In fact, we make strict and difficult decisions in specific areas, where we see a concentration of cases, defying the economic consequences. “Our priority is the safety of our citizens and our visitors.”
The following are the remaining questions from the interview of Minister Haris Theocharis to Sky News:
Kay Burley (Sky News): But you have seen an increase in cases in recent weeks, even though you did relatively well with the first wave of the coronavirus. Is this due to the fact that tourists carry the coronavirus?
Ch. Theocharis: It is due to many reasons. Nobody said that opening up our economy we would not expect a gradual increase in cases. This is important, as long as it is kept under control and does not cause problems in the health system. I think we have seen this in all the countries of Europe. Greece is no exception. If nothing else, in this second wave I would say that we are even more successful in relative terms. But, in any case, I believe that we do everything in our power to create the protocols, the additional tests, the tests at the airports. I just heard about your plans to run diagnostic tests at airports. We did this from day one. We control about 15% of visitors entering the country. We do it with the help of an artificial intelligence system and so it is very targeted. In essence, we double the result of the tests we perform. We have created a comprehensive plan that has kept our country in relative control during the summer. That’s good. It is understandable that each country makes the decisions it deems necessary for its citizens. We remain open to other destinations. And we would welcome British tourists to these destinations.
So, do you think that airport tests work effectively in Greece? Because in the UK the government feels that tests detect only 7% of cases. Would you say that this is not the case?
They work extremely well. We have done hundreds, thousands of tests at the border. And we find only 0.2% positive tests. This is a very good percentage. We have a lower percentage within Greece. We feel that we have kept the situation under control thanks to this system. We are pleased to share the practical details, we have already done so with a number of European countries. And we would be happy to do that with the United Kingdom, with whom we have been in open discussion all this time.
This is a challenge for your government. We, in the United Kingdom, did not want tourists to travel between the two countries, because there were more than 20 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in Greece. The UK is now at this level. Does that mean you will think twice about letting us in?
I believe that from the beginning, the return to normalcy, the gradual opening of the borders, was a European undertaking. We would all like to see carefully, safely, the gradual opening of our economies and our lives. We have heard this request from the people and we are trying to provide the necessary infrastructure to do so. Of course, we have implemented specific regulations for different countries, based on epidemiological data. I can not say that this will not include the United Kingdom at some point in the future. In the meantime, however, we welcome visitors from the United Kingdom.
Are we still welcome, even though we have reached 20 cases per 100,000 inhabitants?
Yes, you are welcome, because we consider that we have the system to control the situation. And I must remind viewers that we have greatly strengthened our national health system during this crisis. We do not feel any pressure. There is sufficient support for the needs of both visitors and citizens.
Watch the interview of the Minister of Tourism Haris Theocharis on the Sky News television network:
source – iefimerida.gr