Greece makes masks compulsory on ferry decks after rise in COVID-19 cases

George Georgiopoulos
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: A ferry sails near the island of Santorini, Greece
FILE PHOTO: A ferry sails near the island of Santorini, Greece

By George Georgiopoulos

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece will make mask-wearing compulsory on the decks of ferries sailing to its islands, extending the requirement beyond indoor public spaces, after a sudden rise in coronavirus infections that could put its crucial tourism season at risk.

Greece reported 110 new cases on Saturday, its highest single-day increase in several weeks. Another 75 confirmed cases were reported on Sunday.

Last week Greece made mask-wearing mandatory in all indoor public spaces and also in outdoor spaces where proper social distancing cannot be observed.

The government is also considering further curbs.

"Compliance with this measure is crucial to avoid more drastic measures that would reduce passenger-load limits on ships," government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters.

The new measure will go into effect from Tuesday until Aug. 18, as the summer holiday season hits its peak.

Greece has so far confirmed 4,662 COVID-19 cases and 208 deaths, a relatively low number compared with many European countries, after imposing a lockdown in the spring.

But rates have been creeping up after a lull from late May to late July.

Cyprus said on Sunday it would introduce compulsory testing for all arrivals from Greece from Aug. 6. The eastern Mediterranean island is thought to be the first country to require tests on arrivals from Greece since the lockdown eased.

"It is a decision which personally I don't understand, I believe it is wrong or at least I don't know the criteria on which it was based," Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theocharis told Parapolitika radio.

"I hope there will be some sort of communication, some understanding between epidemiologists from both sides," he said, adding that Greece is a safe country.

Tourism is a key driver of Greece's economy which is seen shrinking up to 10 percent this year and is slowly emerging from a decade of debt crisis. Greece is a popular holiday destination for thousands of Cypriots.

(Additional reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by David Holmes and Nick Macfie)