They're known for their beauty and are filled with history and adventure, all of which make the Greek islands very popular visitor destinations. Now, the country is planning to vaccinate island residents against COVID-19 to encourage the return of tourism.

Greece is stepping up island vaccinations as it aims to open to international visitors on May 15. The plan to vaccinate inhabitants of more than 80 islands by June 25 was revealed by the country's prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, during a meeting of regional governors via teleconference. It builds on an existing scheme implemented in April to vaccinate those living on islands with under 10,000 residents.

Paleokastritsa Bay in Corfu
Greek islands are loved for their beautiful beaches © Limpopo/Shutterstock

The inoculation plan is operating in tandem with plans to vaccinate 280,000 tourism sector workers against the virus as soon as the country's vulnerable people have been vaccinated. Welcoming visitors back is important to the country, as its tourism sector accounts for about a fifth of its economy, and the vaccinations are part of its its strategy called "Operation Freedom."

Visitors are attracted to Greece's ancient ruins, piercing blue skies and a culture alive with passionate music and incredible food. It recently began reorganizing how its beaches will operate, and will be opening the doors of its museums, open-air cinemas and theaters later this month. Greece dropped quarantine requirements for visitors from more than 30 nations, including the US and UK, if travelers have tested negative or can prove they have been vaccinated. However, Greece was not on the UK's recently announced "green list" for quarantine-free travel, and remains at 'amber'. The US State Department advises against travel to Greece due to COVID-19

Rhodes, Corfu, Zakynthos, Santorini and Mykonos are among the islands loved for their beautiful beaches and and ancient ruins, and they are also a huge draw for active travelers. 

"We are giving our islands priority... by opening up vaccination of their entire adult population earlier than the rest of Greece,” said Mitsotakis. "My message is clear. We are open again."

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