Monday 7 June 2021 10:22 am

‘Operation Blue Freedom’: Greece races to vaccinate islanders in bid to go Covid-free

Greece has launched an ambitious plan to lure back visitors to its islands this summer by vaccinating all local residents by the end of this month.

“Operation Blue Freedom” aims to turn the country’s islands into “Covid-free” travel destinations.

The UK government currently advises against all but essential travel to Greece, except for a small handful of islands including Kos, Corfu, and Crete.

Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the operation would involve 19 islands, with all residents over the age of 18 to be vaccinated by the end of this month.

Many of Greece’s islands, including Milos, rely on tourism and most locals have welcomed the plan to reopen.

In 2020, Greece welcomed only a quarter of its usual number of visitors. Thodoris Vamvakaris, a hotel owner from Milos, said that he has seen no tourists for a year and a half.

“It is pretty hard for a guy my age not to see people and not to see a lot of communication and energy around,” he told the BBC.

Despite the optimism around Greece’s reopening, not all Milos residents are convinced that Operation Blue Freedom is a wise idea.

“I am always concerned. It is different to have 5,000 people living here and different to have 25,000 people like we do in July and August,” Dr Morfo Valla, head of Milos Health Centre told the BBC.

Yannis Havakis, a diving instructor from Milos, disagreed. “We are vaccinated, most of our customers are vaccinated, we also have the tests, and we are not afraid.

“We know if someone has the virus or not and this is how we go on.”