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Greece agrees to double number of Israeli tourists to 1,200 per week

Athens to also lift location restrictions on visitors from Israel beginning September 1; eased rules come as Greece sees infections spike

The departure hall at the Ben Gurion International Airport on August 16, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
The departure hall at the Ben Gurion International Airport on August 16, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Greece will allow up to 1,200 Israelis to visit per week, double the current amount, and lift limitations on where tourists from the Jewish state can travel in the country, the Foreign Ministry announced Wednesday.

The changes are set to take effect on September 1 and will be in force until September 15, according to a ministry statement.

Israeli tourists will a that time be allowed to visit sites across Greece. Israelis are currently confined to Athens, Crete, Thessaloniki, and Corfu.

The Foreign Ministry credited Yosef Amrani, Israel’s ambassador in Athens, for managing to have the restrictions eased and said it was working “to open the skies and provide broader tourism and vacation possibilities for Israeli citizens.”

Greece was one of three Balkan states that this month began allowing Israelis to enter their territories without an automatic quarantine requirement. The other two are Bulgaria and Croatia.

A worker from Region of Attica takes the temperature of a traveler upon the arrival of a ferry from the Greek islands to the port of Piraeus, near Athens, August 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Israelis traveling to Greece must take a coronavirus test 72 hours before takeoff and upon landing in the country. Since travel to Greece resumed, the country’s flagship carrier Aegean Airlines has refused to allow 15 Israelis to board for presenting flawed test results, according to the Ynet news site.

The Greek decision to allow in more Israelis comes as Greece sees a resurgence of coronavirus cases, after so far managing to dodge the worst of the pandemic.

The number of confirmed virus cases and deaths in Greece remains lower than in many other European countries. As of Tuesday, total cases in the country of about 11 million people stood at just under 9,000, with 243 deaths and 31 people intubated in intensive care units.

But Greece’s new confirmed cases have been spiraling in recent weeks, reaching a record 284 on Sunday.

That remains far below Israel, which on Wednesday morning reported 2,089 new infections over the past 24 hours.

People gather in front of the Kapnikarea Orthodox church after the midnight closure of the restaurant and bars in Athens, August 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Most countries continue to bar visitors from Israel, which has one of the highest rates of new infections per capita in the world. Only countries that have more lax entry requirements, such as Brazil, the US, Mexico, Kenya, and others allow in Israelis, though in some cases, they must still present negative COVID-19 tests or quarantine upon entry.

Israel for its part has also more or less closed its borders to foreign nationals since March.

Earlier this month, Israel began allowing Israelis traveling from a number of “green” countries with limited outbreaks to enter the country without needing to quarantine.

Israel also decided earlier this month to allow thousands of foreign students into the country, despite coronavirus travel restrictions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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