The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has warned against travel to Greece’s south Aegean islands, updating the area to dark red after a spike in coronavirus cases was reported by officials.

Greece has drawn visitors to the 13 islands, including Mykonos and Santorini, by promoting them as ‘Covid-free’ destinations but the updated dark red label could threaten to derail travel to the popular summer destinations.

The ECDC’s travel map is a five tier system, ranging from green, where the positivity rate is low, to dark red, where the 14-day case notification rate is 500 or more. The rating system also includes a grey option if testing information is not sufficient enough to offer a clear picture of the Covid infection rate.

After an effective inoculation program, the Greek government opened the islands to tourism in spring 2021 in the hope of rebounding the local economy following a crippling period of travel restrictions. While 31.3 million tourists visited Greece in 2019, that number fell by 76.5% to just 7.4 million in 2019, according to the Institute of the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises.

Greek officials have not begun panicking yet, with the president of the hoteliers association of Rhodes, Manolis Markopoulos, saying that the tourist industry is “waiting to see how the markets will react” to the ECDC’s updated assessment before responding.

The decision to move the south Aegean islands to the dark red status comes one week after Crete, another holiday destination in Greece, was similarly downgraded over Covid concerns.

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