Greece has joined the ranks of European countries now requiring proof of vaccination or evidence of recent recovery from COVID-19 from patrons in order to access indoor venues like restaurants, cafes, bars, cinemas, theatres and nightclubs. Children under 12 who aren’t yet eligible for the vaccine can enter indoor establishments with proof of a negative test.
The new regulations, already in effect since July 16, aims to stem the latest surge of COVID-19 infections in the region, which is being attributed to the ultra-contagious Delta variant that’s currently sweeping across Europe.
The introduction of these new rules seems to have had little immediate impact on residents and visitors, who mostly prefer to move things outdoors during Greece’s hot, dry summers. And, sidewalk cafés, restaurants with outdoor seating and open-air cinemas continue to be accessible to everyone.
According to Travel Awaits, the new policy also dictates that only seated customers will be allowed in restaurants and bars, putting the kibosh on any dancing or loitering around the bar area. AP News reported that even attendees at Greece’s outdoor clubs and music venues must be fully vaccinated or recently recovered, capacities are capped at 85 percent and, again, everyone must be seated.
Health officials will be monitoring indoor venues to verify compliance and businesses face some hefty penalties if they fail to uphold regulations.
A first offense warrants a one-week closure, plus a fine of €200 to €500 (about $235 to $600), depending upon the size of the venue. For a second offense, penalties increase to €10,000 (about $11,800) and 15 days’ forced closure. A third offense would cause the business to lose its license for 60 days.
Greece’s new rules arrive on the heels of a similar policy effected in France last week, declaring that only the vaccinated will be permitted to enter indoor public venues, such as restaurants, shopping malls and theatres, or to board a train or plane.
To simplify the verification process, the Greek government has launched an app, which will be made available to local businesses, called ‘COVID FREE GR’, which can scan visitors’ E.U. Digital Vaccination Certificates to pull up proof of vaccination or test results on demand. American visitors presumably need to produce their vaccine credentials in hard copy (e.g., vaccination card provided by the CDC) or using a digital records platform, since the U.S. government will not endorse a standard so-called ‘vaccine passport’.
Greece opened its borders to foreign visitors back on May 14 and welcomes U.S. travelers. To enter the country, all visitors over the age of 12 must either provide proof that they are fully vaccinated to enter without pre-travel testing requirements. Alternatively, travelers can provide either a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival in Greece or a negative antigen test taken within 48 hours of their arrival.