Greece reopens borders to international travellers
Many were sceptical, but they have done it – the Greek government has accomplished their goal of re-opening borders to international visitors by mid-May.
The country is known for its beautiful islands, historical sites and vibrant culture – usually attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. During the COVID-19 crisis, the industry suffered significantly, affecting the lives of tourism providers across the country.
In a bid to revive the failing industry, the government set its sights on May as a proposed date for reopening – just in time for the busy summer season.
Currently, any citizens coming from European Union and Schengen Area, as well as those from the United Kingdom, Russia, Serbia, Israel and the United Arab Emirates, are allowed to enter the Hellenic Republic, with no restrictions, as long as they have been fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus or can provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result, taken at least 72 hours before travelling (or sooner).
Further to this, the Greek government has announced they will be extending the invitation to visitors from countries with significantly low infection rates of COVID-19, including Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Rwanda.
However, visitors from these areas must also provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, or a vaccination certificate.
The re-opening even extends to visitors from the United States of America, after remaining closed to the country for over a year. US travellers will have to abide by the same requirements as citizens from the aforementioned countries when planning their visit, including providing either a vaccination certificate or negative COVID-19 test result.
In addition to the main requirements, the government also required any visitor to complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF), 24 hours before travelling, which will allow contact tracing in the event of an outbreak.
There will also be ‘random’ rapid tests conducted at airports and high traffic areas. If anybody fails to pass these tests with negative result, they will be required to undergo an emergency hotel quarantine period until further information is available or testing is undertaken.
According to Greece’s Tourism Minister, Harry Theocharis in an interview earlier in May, Greece’s tourism sector ‘will open on May 14, and it will open safely, despite the danger’, as the country was experiencing a third wave of the virus.
The minister has been adamant that the country needs to reopen, despite acknowledging the risk from the virus and its new (and concerning) strains.
In line with the changes, international airports across the country will be allowed to accept incoming international flights from the 14th. United Airlines have announced that they will be resuming their summer service to Athens from New York (Newark airport) from the 3rd June, and flights from Washington Dulles airport from the 1st July.
Other airlines have also announced the resumption of routes into Greece from the U.S, including Air France, Delta, Swiss, and Lufthansa.
A four-point action plan was revealed by the Tourism Minister in April, with a range of measures designed to help the tourism and travel industries recover from the significant damage incurred by the pandemic.
The plan was robustly supported by the country’s Development and Investment Minister, Adonis Georgiadis, who encouraged the reopening for the tourist season. He confirmed that his support was given after ensuring a sped-up vaccination rollout for workers and people involved in the tourism and travel sectors, to ensure the country managed the pandemic and re-opening as safely as possible.
It’s worth noting that a curfew is still in place from 12:30am to 5am. Greece is on the amber list but some of the islands do not have a warning against travel from the FCDO. Either way you still would have to quarantine on your return for 10 days. Some Greek islands are high on the list of contenders for the next green list review.
Switzerland plan to end quarantine for vaccinated travellers
Switzerland’s Federal Council announced on Wednesday that they have agreed to enact the latest step to reopening after lockdown. This next step includes allowing any of those who have been vaccinated, as well as anybody who has recovered from the COVID-19 virus, to be exempt from any contact and travel quarantine requirements.
A government representative said of the decision:
“It can be assumed that they cannot transmit the disease. A decision will be taken on the vaccines to which these exemptions apply and for how long.”
This new step and subsequent rules will come into play starting on the 31st May. It is assumed that by this date, all high-risk citizens who are choosing to be vaccinated will have received their first dose.
At the moment, any new arrivals from certain countries or anybody who has come into contact with a COVID-19 case are required to undergo quarantine for ten days.
Any visitors coming from a country that currently has a concerning variant of the virus still circulating will still be required to undergo the quarantine period. A list of those countries can be found on the Swiss Government website.
There are only a select few who are exempt, including any business travellers on essential trips (that cannot be postponed).
Other steps being undertaken as of the 31st May include an increase in indoor event numbers (from 50 up to 100), up to a maximum of half the venue’s capacity. Previously, venues could only accept a third of their capacity.
Collinson, leading UK testing company, drop travel testing prices to start at £32
Collinson are a UK testing company who are currently the only Government-approved body able to provide the LAMP-type testing system. The LAMP-style of testing is currently the only type that allows passengers to be released from their ‘Amber’ restrictions (from quarantine on Day 5).
Collinson have just announced that they will be working with the UK’s largest airports and airlines to make airport testing quick, easy and affordable for everyone, as international travel reopened on the 17th May.
The announcement means a big price drop for their travel tests, currently being delivered across facilities at Heathrow, Manchester, Stansted, London City, Luton, and East Midlands airports as well as walk and drive-throughs at The O2 Arena and by Gatwick airport (APH Parking).
The cost for these tests will dip down to as low as £32 for a Lateral Flow Antigen, £66 for PCR and £68 for LAMP tests (with a discount code – more later). The new pricing structure came into play from the 17th May, in line with the reopening of international borders.
To clarify, in terms of pricing, Collinson has partnered with numerous airlines, including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines, Air France/KLM, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines, so passengers can book tests as part of their overall flight booking process and, in some cases, receive further discounts for doing so (which is where the £32 etc prices come from). In comparison, without a discount code, the prices end up being around 20% higher – starting at £40 for the Lateral Antigen Test, and £85 for the LAMP.
The specific ‘Test to Release’ needed to leave quarantine on Day 5 is £95 (without a discount code).
There are also different discount codes that we have found after investigating further online, if you wanted to snag the cheaper prices for yourself, it is worth doing some research – or check with your airline to see if they have one they can offer.
The program aims to make travel to ‘Green’ listed countries more affordable, as well as providing ‘Amber’ arrivals with a quicker option to reduce their quarantine time.
The company is the only government-approved provider of the LAMP ‘Test to Release’, or ‘TTR’ process, which is the only option for those visiting from Amber countries to shorten their time, with test results available on day 5.
The tests utilise the new, rapid ‘LAMP’ technology instead of the traditionally accepted ‘PCR’ tests, which ensures a much quicker and reliable test result for passengers (around 48 hours less processing time than PCR tests).
The company is now able to promise passengers same-day results for any appointments made before 4pm. Once a negative result is received, passengers are free to be released from their quarantine on day 5.
Collinson are the company behind the first airport testing site which was opened at Heathrow last summer. The company has now expanded operations to cover a range of other major UK airports, as well as in-city locations across the country.
To date, the company have successfully delivered more than a quarter of a million tests across the UK for passengers who have undertaken essential travel during the pandemic (in line with the Government guidelines and restrictions).
David Evans, Collinsons Joint CEO, said the company is happy to announce the price drop.
“Ever since we launched airport testing last summer, we’ve been focused on making the process as convenient and accessible to as many people as possible, making sure they can fly safely in accordance with latest Government guidelines. We’re thrilled to be able to announce these new prices, which we’re able to do thanks to the growing scale of our operations” he said in a recent statement.
All Collinson tests are medical grade, carried out in a dedicated facility by trained medical staff and, according to their website, can boast the lowest rates of inconclusive or inaccurate results.