Following Greece’s open invitation to Australians to enter their country, it was thought that Australians would be rushing to the travel agency to buy the first ticket out. Yet it is now understood that this travel to the Greek motherland is actually impossible, until Australia changes it’s policies.
The Greek government last week confirmed Australia was one of 29 countries deemed safe to allow tourists to enter from without quarantining from 15 June.
Yet Greece’s ambassador to Australia, George Papacostas, warns that if Australians take up this generous travel offer, then they would actually be breaking Australian law, unless they have a special exemption.
Speaking to The Guardian, Papacostas also acknowledged that while arrivals from Australian airports are exempt from quarantine, this route is technically impossible. With no direct flights into Greece, Australians would be forced to transit through Qatar, UAE or Asia – which are on the airport blacklist – would void Greece’s quarantine-free offer.
A Department of Home Affairs spokeswoman echoed Papacostas’ statement, stating that Australian citizens could only leave the country if they had a travel exemption, and that tourism was not a category for a travel exemption. However, it appears if an Australian dual-national attempted to exit Australia on their foreign passport, they would not be required to provide proof of their exemption at an airport.
Papacostas said he “would like to stress that Australian citizens or permanent residents cannot leave Australia” to travel to Greece as part of its tourism push, but said he was now exploring “any kind of bilateral cooperation with any country to facilitate the travel” of Australians to Greece without quarantine once the border ban was lifted.
Peter Collignon, a professor of infectious diseases at the Australian National University, said Greece’s tourism push was premature, and flagged a higher risk of contracting Covid-19 if Australians evaded border closures and travelled to Greece.
He said the risk is heightened because Greece’s testing regime is not as strong as Australia’s, and noted Greece’s lenient inclusion of other countries on the quarantine exemption arrangement.
“I would be worried about going to a place where there’s not been the same amount of testing as Australia. You’ve got to assume both the guests you’re with and people in your hotel could be carrying Covid-19.
“Countries thought to be containing this relatively well, like Germany, still have 600 cases a day,” he said of German tourists, who will also be allowed into Greece.
“We can’t even go to Queensland now, let alone Greece,” Collignon said, also noting the financial risk travellers would be exposed to without travel insurance.