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Greece resumes island ferry services in bid to salvage summer tourist season

Travel to the islands had been generally off-limits since a lockdown in late March.

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(AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

(AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

(AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Greece has restarted regular ferry services to its islands, and cafes and restaurants are also back open for business as the country accelerates efforts to salvage its summer tourism season.

Travel to the islands had been generally off-limits since a lockdown was imposed in late March to halt the spread of coronvirus, with only goods suppliers and permanent residents allowed access.

But the country’s low infection rate in the Covid-19 pandemic prompted the government to start the holiday season three weeks earlier than the expected June 15 date, as other Mediterranean countries — including Italy, Spain and Turkey — grapple with deadlier outbreaks.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

Greece has had nearly 2,900 infections and 171 deaths from the virus, but Italy has seen nearly 33,000 deaths, Spain 29,000 and Turkey 4,340, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Social distancing regulations and passenger limits have been imposed on ferries and at restaurants to ward off new infections.

State-run health services to combat coronavirus are being expanded to the islands, with intensive care units being placed on five islands – Lesbos, Samos, Rhodes, Zakynthos and Corfu – along with existing facilities on the island of Crete.

Tourism is a vital part of the Greek economy, directly contributing more than 10% of the country’s GDP.

More than 34 million visitors travelled to Greece last year, spending 18.2 billion euros (£16.2 billion), according to government data.

PA