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Coronavirus Greece: Second lockdown expected after cases spike

Greece is on the verge of another lockdown after a spike in coronavirus cases caused by tourists. 

Public health officials in Greece today reported another rise in the rate COVID-19 infections, most of them tourism-related.

The Health Ministry said 60 new confirmed cases had been recorded in the latest 24-hour reporting period, 40 from incoming travelers.

It was the highest daily total since late April and brought the overall number of confirmed infections to 3,732. No new deaths were reported and the pandemic death toll in Greece remained at 193.

The news comes shortly after British tourists were advised to wear face masks at all times while abroad by a group of the world’s leading travel agencies.  

A public health worker collects a swab sample from a boy to test for the COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, at the Greek-Bulgarian border crossing in Promachonas on July 10, 2020

A public health worker collects a swab sample from a boy to test for the COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, at the Greek-Bulgarian border crossing in Promachonas on July 10, 2020

A public health worker collects a swab sample from a boy to test for the COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, at the Greek-Bulgarian border crossing in Promachonas on July 10, 2020

Cars wait in line as they queue at the Greek-Bulgarian border crossing in Promachonas on July 10, 2020. - Greek authorities on July 9, 2020 expressed concern over the increase in Covid-19 cases in the neighboring Balkans, highlighting the risk of "imported cases" due to the arrival in Greece of tourists over land borders

Cars wait in line as they queue at the Greek-Bulgarian border crossing in Promachonas on July 10, 2020. - Greek authorities on July 9, 2020 expressed concern over the increase in Covid-19 cases in the neighboring Balkans, highlighting the risk of "imported cases" due to the arrival in Greece of tourists over land borders

Cars wait in line as they queue at the Greek-Bulgarian border crossing in Promachonas on July 10, 2020. – Greek authorities on July 9, 2020 expressed concern over the increase in Covid-19 cases in the neighboring Balkans, highlighting the risk of ‘imported cases’ due to the arrival in Greece of tourists over land borders

Tourists, arrive at Nikos Kazatzakis International Airport in Heraklion, Crete island, Greece, on Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Tourists, arrive at Nikos Kazatzakis International Airport in Heraklion, Crete island, Greece, on Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Tourists, arrive at Nikos Kazatzakis International Airport in Heraklion, Crete island, Greece, on Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The rise in cases prompted Greek authorities Friday to announce tougher border checks for tourists as well as more frequent inspections at businesses where crowds are likely to gather. 

Greece on Friday said it would require travellers crossing its land border with Bulgaria to provide proof they have tested negative for coronavirus as cases surged elsewhere in the Balkans.

Greece’s sole border crossing currently open to tourists is with Bulgaria, and is crossed by thousands of mainly Balkan travellers every day.

‘All those entering for non-essential reasons from July 14… are obliged to show a negative (nasal swab) test result up to 72 hours prior to entry,’ government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters.

The move came after Bulgaria registered a daily record of 240 new infections on Thursday.

Romania on Thursday also reported its biggest daily increase since the pandemic started at 614 cases.

In Serbia, where there are have been violent protests against the government’s handling of the pandemic, infections have also increased in the past few weeks.

Greek authorities are already handling several confirmed virus cases in holiday areas after reopening regional airports to international flights on July 1.

In the spa town of Edipsos on the island of Evia, nearly 90 Serbian tourists were tested this week after a pair vacationing in the area were found to be infected.

The news comes shortly after British tourists were advised to wear face masks at all times while abroad by a group of the world's leading travel agencies. Pictured: A woman wearing a face mask stands in front of the Acropolis in Athens

The news comes shortly after British tourists were advised to wear face masks at all times while abroad by a group of the world's leading travel agencies. Pictured: A woman wearing a face mask stands in front of the Acropolis in Athens

The news comes shortly after British tourists were advised to wear face masks at all times while abroad by a group of the world’s leading travel agencies. Pictured: A woman wearing a face mask stands in front of the Acropolis in Athens

‘Relaxing (lockdown) measures has caused a rebound in the first wave,’ Athanassios Tsakris, head of the department of microbiology at the University of Athens medical school told Skai TV.

‘It’s possible that we will see a further increase (in cases),’ he said.

Meanwhile, British holidaymakers were urged to wear masks while travelling, in hotels and even on beaches, by a coalition of the world’s biggest travel companies.

As part of a ‘new normal’ for holidays, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) is urging tourists to wear masks at virtually all times, wherever they are, to prevent a second wave of coronavirus.

Tourists should even have face coverings on by the pool and on beaches where they cannot keep a two-metre gap between their fellow sunbathers, the council says.

Airports, hotels, nightclubs, museums, gyms and all other ‘indoor venues’, including public areas on cruise ships, should also have mandatory mask-wearing rules in force until a vaccine is found, it recommends.

The stark new guidelines come as thousands of Britons jet off today – the first day of the Government’s travel corridor scheme. 

The WTTC is concerned that varying coronavirus rules around the world could lead to confusion among holidaymakers, while putting travel and tourism workers at risk of infection. 

Its advice is significant because the WTTC includes some of the biggest names in travel, including Hilton, Marriott, Tui, Expedia, Carnival Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Amex Global Travel and Google. 

The organisation said its recommendations had been informed by medical experts from Harvard University. 

As of today, English holidaymakers are allowed to visit 59 countries and 14 British territories without having to enter a two-week quarantine on their return. 

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