Greece in bid to save its tourism season

Regular ferry services have resumed in Greece as the government moves to salvage the tourism season.
Regular ferry services have resumed in Greece as the government moves to salvage the tourism season.

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

Travel to the islands had been generally off-limits since a lockdown in late March, with only goods suppliers and permanent residents keeping access.

But the country's low infection rate in the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the government to start the holiday season earlier than expected, on June 15, as other Mediterranean countries - including Italy, Spain, and Turkey - are grappling with more deadly outbreaks.

Distancing regulations and passenger limits have been imposed on ferries and at restaurants, while state-run health services to combat new coronavirus cases are being expanded to the islands, with intensive care space being provided 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, with a direct cash contribution of more than 10 per cent, and broad secondary benefits. More than 34 million visitors travelled to Greece last year, spending 18.2 billion euros ($A30.34 billion), according to central data.

Australian Associated Press