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Direct flights to Greek tourist destinations to begin July 1

Greece's long-awaited tourist season will begin on June 15 with the opening of seasonal hotels, while international flights will begin flying directly to tourist destinations gradually as of July 1, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Wednesday.

Speaking Wednesday in a televised address to the nation, Mitsotakis said visitors would be subject to sample coronavirus testing and “our general health protocols will be adhered to, without them, however, overshadowing our bright sun or the natural beauties of Greece.”

Mitsotakis noted Greece has “managed to restrict the spread of the virus. ... We made our country an example to follow in the handling of the health crisis.”

In this photo provided by the Greek Prime Minister's Office, Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis addresses the Greek nation on State TV in Athens, Wednesday, May 20, 2020. Greece's government detailed guidelines on how the summer tourist season will be operate. (Dimitris PapamitsosGreek Prime Minister's Office via AP)

Mitsotakis’ government imposed a lockdown very early in Greece’s outbreak, which has been credited with keeping the number of deaths and critically ill people at very low levels. On Wednesday, health authorities announced one new death and 10 new confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of dead to 166 and the total confirmed cases to 2,850 in the country of nearly 11 million people.

But the lockdown has dealt a severe blow to Greece’s economy, which has barely emerged from a brutal decade-long financial crisis that saw a quarter of gross domestic product wiped out. Tourism is a vital part of the economy, contributing more than 10% of GDP, and authorities have been anxious to ensure the entire summer season isn’t lost.

More than 34 million visitors traveled to Greece last year, spending 18.2 billion euros, according to central data.

Crew members wearing face masks walk on the deck of a cruise ship that has been docked for almost two months due to the coronavirus outbreak at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, Wednesday, May 20, 2020. Greece's government says revenue from its vital tourism industry has been hammered as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown measures, adding that detailed guidelines on how the season will operate will be announced Wednesday. (AP PhotoThanassis Stavrakis)

“Let us face reality with courage: April and May was the nadir of tourism,” Mitsotakis said. “So whatever we achieve this year will be a profit.”

Mitsotakis announced a reduction in consumer taxes on transport from 24% to 13% for five months, which will lead to cheaper boat, plane and bus tickets during the tourist season, as well as a cut on tax on coffee, soft drinks and open-air movie theater tickets.

The government's priority, he stressed, was on maintaining jobs “and helping the sector's professionals prepare for their big comeback in 2021.”

A worker cleans a fish restaurant ahead of its reopening in Piraeus, near Athens, Wednesday, May 20, 2020. Next Monday, bars, cafes and restaurants will be allowed to serve clients on the premises, with patrons limited to 6 per table, except for families with children. Greece is gradually lifting quarantine restrictions after the lockdown against the coronavirus outbreak. (AP PhotoThanassis Stavrakis)

Derek Gatopoulos contributed to this report.

Follow AP pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

People stand on the balconies of their cabins, of a cruise ship that has been docked for almost two months due to the coronavirus outbreak at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, Wednesday, May 20, 2020. Greece's government says revenue from its vital tourism industry has been hammered as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown measures, adding that detailed guidelines on how the season will operate will be announced Wednesday. (AP PhotoThanassis Stavrakis)