ATHENS, Greece: In a sign that life was increasingly returning to normal, Italy and Greece have relaxed some COVID-19 restrictions prior to Europe's peak summer tourist season.
The Greek civil aviation authority said, except for the wearing of face masks during flights and at airports, it was lifting all COVID-19 rules for international and domestic flights. Air travelers were previously required to show proof of vaccination, a negative test or a recent recovery from Covid.
In Italy, visitors to Italy will no longer have to fill out the EU passenger locator form.
While the health pass used to enter restaurants, cinemas, gyms and other venues is no longer required, the green pass, which showed proof of vaccination, recovery from the virus or a recent negative test, is still required to enter hospitals and nursing homes.
"It was needed. We have waited more than two years," said Claudio Civitelli, a resident if Rome having his morning coffee at a bar near the Trevi Fountain.
At a nearby table, Andrea Bichler, an Italian tourist from Trentino Alto-Adige, sat with friends who were all without masks, stating, "It is much better. Let us say it is a return to life, a free life."
In Greece, where the tourism sector accounts for about 20 percent of GNP, rules have already been eased.
While the need to show proof of vaccination certificates have been temporarily ended through 31st August, it will be determined in August whether they will be brought back.
Restrictions on the number of customers in indoor spaces has also been suspended, but masks are still required indoors and in vehicles, and experts still recommend using them outdoors in crowded areas.
According to business owners, many unvaccinated people were among those enjoying the end of COVID-19 restrictions.
Michalis Epitropidis, general secretary of the association of restaurant, cafe and bar owners in Thessaloniki, Greece told the Associated Press, "We saw again old customers whom we had not seen since November."
Greece, which saw tourism revenues plunge in 2020 and only partially recover in 2021, as in Italy, is now hoping for a record tourism year in 2022.