Greece has restarted regular ferry services to the islands, and restaurants and bars 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, 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 — grapple with more deadly outbreaks.

PA graphics of global Coronavirus cases; Covid-19
PA Graphics

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.

Intensive care space is 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%, and broad secondary benefits.

More than 34 million visitors travelled to Greece last year, spending 18.2 billion euros, according to central data.

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