ATHENS – An outbreak of COVID-19 among tourists has forced Greek authorities to impose an overnight curfew and ban music in bars and restaurants in the party hotspot of Mykonos.
And as infected tourists fill up the islands’ quarantine facilities, sick patients are being evicted from their hotels with nowhere else to stay.
The Greek economy relies on tourism for at least a fifth of the country’s GDP and the government had been reluctant to impose COVID restrictions on tourists this summer in an effort to make up for the billions of euros lost last year due to international lockdowns. But after tens of thousands of European tourists – who were permitted to travel if they could provide proof of vaccination or a rapid negative test – arrived, a new outbreak now threatens the summer tourist season.
On Friday it became clear that the islands themselves were hosting major outbreaks as tourists fell ill and required both medical treatment and alternative housing. Greek coronavirus regulations require those who positively test to inform hotels, which then have the option to decline to accommodate infected customers.
But as beds filled in designated quarantine hotels, people who tested positive this weekend were unable to return to their accommodation or find rooms in designated quarantine facilities, leaving COVID-infected tourists with little choice but to wander the islands in search of food and shelter.
The first reports came on Friday as local Mykonos television reported a teenage Italian tourist had nowhere to stay after testing positive for COVID and being denied access to the already-full quarantine facilities.
By Saturday night the teenager had been transferred to mainland Greece for treatment. But then came reports that six tourists on the island of Paros were showing symptoms on Saturday. After receiving positive COVID tests, they were also banned from their hotel and left in the parking lot of the testing facility for more than 16 hours. Eventually, after local residents complained about the presence of tourists infected with COVID with nowhere to go, at least four of the tourists were also transferred to the mainland by medical helicopter.
“It was not a good weekend for the government’s plan to keep the islands open, we are already seeing mass cancellations after the reports of homeless sick tourists and the government shutdown of the clubs and parties,” said a Mykonos nightclub manager, who didn’t want their name or the name of their facility in the news.
In response to the outbreaks and devastating public relations failure of sick, homeless teenagers wandering the tourist islands, the government Saturday ordered an immediate shutdown to Mykonos’ famous nightclubs, leaving the island full of frustrated tourists.
“People are cancelling their holidays by the hundreds,” said the nightclub manager. “They don’t want to come all this way and spend thousands of euros to find out they can’t party or even return to their hotel room. It's somehow worse a disaster than just COVID.”