By now, you must be feeling like a felon on house arrest. Sure some states and countries have lifted restrictions, but let’s be honest, it feels like you are stuck. I have made the argument before about the advantages of moving to Greece, but COVID-19 just gave me another. People might be skittish about traveling for vacation or holiday to Greece, or anywhere, but this post is about helping you make sense of the facts to allay your fears.
WHY A GREECE VACATION?
- Greece has the lowest fatality rate due to Corona virus in all of Europe. The press has sounded the surprising success of this small nation to beat the pandemic rate, recording 166 coronavirus-related deaths and 2,850 confirmed cases. For a nation of 10 million, and close to 30% of those categorized as elderly, that’s not bad. In all probability, you will be going to a place where there is less likelihood of your contraction the contagion than if you stayed behind.e
- Greece is making it easy for you to visit. Contrary to what was happening until April, you DO NOT need to isolate and self-quarantine for 14 days as was the case. Greece is opening up for travel by changing protocols for travelers. Up to June, travelers coming into Athens Eleftherios Venezelos Airport will be swabbed in booths and watched for 24 hours. They will be hosted in quarantine hotels, compliments of the government, for one day and then be allowed to go free. However, Prime Minister Mitsotakis told the world in a televised speech that the swab test for Corona and isolation will not be done after July 1st. Greece has been vamping up its efforts to unroll its tourist season as 20% of its GDP relies on this sector. It has the most to lose out of all the European member states should its tourism plummet due to the pandemic. So far it is leveraging its success in the health front to upend what might be disastrous consequences to its economic front. Greece has the leg up on its neighbors Spain and Italy that were hit hard by the virus. As a result it is opening up for the season officially on June 15th. It will prove a test case of how well it can manage the pandemic as a holiday destination. It is a tight see-saw: it can win on the health front but can it win on the economic front? You can help balance out its precarious situation by visiting.
Mr Mitsotakis said that Greece had shown by its handling of the crisis that it was a “passport of safety, credibility and health . . .”It’s a great reputation,” the prime minster said, adding that the country had provided a “hygienic shield in every location of hospitality… our passion that is always inspired by Xenios Zeus”. The Greek god Zeus was god of xenia or hospitality, among many other things.
3. Greece is making it cheaper to travel. Greece is also making travel cheaper by temporarily reducing value added tax (VAT) on all transport – flights, bus journeys and rail travel – to 13% from 24%.
WHY TAKE A FLIGHT?
No one wants to get sick while in transit to their holiday destination. Many people feel unsafe taking air travel for a short summer jaunt and have decided already it is not worth the risk, especially since this virus is so novel and unpredictable.
I cannot lie the CDC has put out a statement saying that unless it is essential, we should forego our beach vacation this year. With that being said, airlines are putting in precautions to make the lessen the ease of transmission in a confined space such as an airplane.
Seating will adhere to at least the six foot distancing required as evidenced in scientific studies. The World Health Organization defines contact with an infected person as being seated within two rows of one another. A study by Emory University’s Vicki Stover Hertzberg and Howard Weiss, tracked infection transmission on flights from 3.5-5 hours in 2018. What the study showed is that most passengers left their seat at some point which circulated the air droplets for possible infection. This activity helps pinpoint the safest places to sit: by the window. This means that if you have to travel, choose a window seat as you will have the least chance of coming into contact with an infected person.
Take PPE with you. There is no restrictions on wearing a Hazmat suit, N95 masks, gloves and other equipment. Because the virus can survive on surfaces, there is nothing stopping you from disinfecting (the probably sterilized) airplane with your own Lysol spray.
Contrary to what people believe, the recycled air in an airplane hold will probably NOT get you infected. The filters for cleaning out the air in an airplane are some of the most advanced and super-effective known as HEPA filters. HEPA stands for “high efficiency particulate air [filter]” and is supposed to filter out at least 99.97% of microbes, dust, pollen, mold, and any airborne particles that are 0.3 microns (µm) in size. That’s keeps out cooking smoke, but viruses measure in at .01-.001, they are tiny tiny suckers that might be able to pass through. But again, viruses can only travel so far. It’s unlikely they will get sucked into the air filter and rehashed through the cockpit. On a flight, your source of infection is going to be the guy who coughs next to you.
Another preventive measure is what Emirates is doing. (That’s the carrier I will be taking from Newark to Athens on a direct flight). They are testing all passenger to board their planes. In a test that takes 10 minutes, you will know if you are or are not COVID-19 positive. If you are, they do not allow you to board. That grants some sort of relief knowing that most of the other passengers on flight have tested negative. Granted this practice sparks all kinds of civil liberties and surveillance questions, it is what it is.
No one can tell you to travel or not to travel to Greece in summer. It really is hard to give a blanket statement for all. It is especially hard for those over 65 and with those with underlying medical conditions.
But if you choose to, you will be helping Greece’s economy and giving yourself a much-deserved respite from a world of lockdowns, shut-ins, and fearful hiding. Set your soul free by coming to Greece. Have a safe flight.