Greece's islands reopen after coronavirus lockdown in bid to salvage summer tourist season

Greece has restarted regular ferry services to its islands, and cafes and restaurants 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 to halt the spread of coronavirus, with only goods suppliers and permanent residents allowed access.

But the country's low infection rate in the Covid-19 pandemic prompted the government to start the holiday season three weeks earlier than the expected June 15 date, as other Mediterranean countries - including Italy, Spain and Turkey - grapple with deadlier outbreaks.

It's part of the country's tentative roadmap towards opening its tourism season next month.

Keeping Covid-19 out of the Greek islands involves mobile testing teams. Credit: ITV News

Keeping Covid-19 out of the Greek islands involves mobile testing teams in high-powered boats crossing the Aegean Sea.

So far the island of Kimolos has not had a single case of coronavirus.

Of the 300 residents, 40 have been tested for Covid-19 on Tuesday to ensure they can build on the health data ahead of the busy touristic summer.

The country has been less scarred by the coronavirus pandemic than some of its European neighbours after the government imposed a lockdown very early in its outbreak, a move that has been credited with keeping the number of deaths, intensive care unit beds and critically ill people at extremely low levels.

Dr Spiros Sapounas told ITV News Europe Editor James Mates: "We believe that it's inevitable we are going to have a case during the summer from the increase of tourism but we hope that we are going to contain it and take all the necessary measures to avoid the spread."

Dr Spiros Sapounas said its inevitable the Kimolos island will get its first Covid-19 case soon. Credit: PA

Greece has had nearly 2,900 infections and 171 deaths from the virus, but Italy has seen nearly 33,000 deaths, Spain 29,000 and Turkey 4,340, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Social distancing regulations and passenger limits have been imposed on ferries and at restaurants to ward off new infections.

State-run health services to combat coronavirus are being expanded to the islands, with intensive care units being placed on five islands – Lesbos, Samos, Rhodes, Zakynthos and Corfu – along with existing facilities on the island of Crete.

Greece's plan also involves tracking and tracing from airports all the way to their furthest island.

Greece will be tracking and tracing from airports all the way to their furthest island. Credit: ITV News

In Athens the other half of the test and trace program involves having a situation room where they run parallel software systems - one tracks every positive Covid-19 case in hospital in the country and the other every single person in isolation.

Tourism is a vital part of the Greek economy, directly contributing more than 10% of the country’s GDP.

More than 34 million visitors travelled to Greece last year, spending 18.2 billion euros (£16.2 billion), according to government data.

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