Greece is experiencing its highest daily increase in infections since the start of the pandemic and on Friday the government ordered the quarantining of the country’s third-largest migrant camp, on the island of Chios, after a Yemeni asylum seeker and a staff member tested positive for the disease.
If the country is added to the list, it would throw the travel plans of tens of thousands of British tourists into chaos, as it already has for Britons in France, Malta and the Netherlands, who must now go into quarantine for two weeks on their return to the UK.
Greece, which was keen to open up tourism to revive its battered economy, reported 262 new infections on Wednesday, its highest daily tally since the start of the outbreak. On Thursday, another 204 cases were reported.
That brings the total number of infections in Greece to 6,381 since late February, although the death toll remains very low – at just 216.
The sharp increase in infections has led the authorities to introduce more restrictions, just as the tourism season is reaching its peak.
On Friday, the government limited public gatherings to no more than 50 people and decreed that restaurants and bars in Athens and the islands of Crete, Paros, Santorini, Rhodes, Kos, Antiparos and Zakynthos must close by midnight.
There has been a particular surge in infections among young people and Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Greek prime minister, urged them to keep wearing masks in public places. Otherwise, they risk infecting their parents and grandparents once they return from the nightclubs and bars of the Greek islands, he said.
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, said on Friday that any country recording above 20 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people in a week caused “concern” and could “trigger” the introduction of quarantine measures, requiring inbound travellers to self-isolate for two weeks.
That means Denmark, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Croatia could all be next in line, according to analysis by The Telegraph of the latest coronavirus figures, with infection rates above 14 per 100,000 and rising.
The same criteria means there are concerns that Greece could also be added to the list.
Ireland’s infection rate is lower at 10.8. But the week-on-week change has been 47.9 per cent, higher than in France.
Greece saw an infection rate of 11.6 per 100,000 in the week to Aug 13, with the week-on-week change up to 90 per cent.
Mr Shapps told Today on BBC Radio 4: “With France and these other countries, Netherlands and elsewhere, the numbers have now just gone above the threshold, which is about 20 cases per 100,000, but measured on a seven-day rolling average.”
The quarantine imposed on the migrant camp on Chios includes a ban on anybody entering or exiting the facility. Charities have been ordered to suspend all their programmes and the asylum application process has been halted.
The camp is home to more than 3,800 people – almost four times above capacity. Around 25,000 migrants and refugees live in cramped conditions in the camps on Greece’s eastern Aegean Islands, including Lesbos and Kos.
In Aruba and Turks and Caicos, removed from the air bridges list alongside France and the Netherlands, the weekly infection rate was 587 and 289 per 100,000 respectively. But with a population of just over 100,000 in Aruba, and below 40,000 in Turks and Caicos, it requires very few cases to cause infection rates to soar.
A handful of other smaller countries remain on the exemption list, but have infection rates significantly higher than 20 per 100,000. The Faroe Islands saw a rate of 200 per 100,000 in the week to Aug 13. But with a population of fewer than 50,000, it equates to just 98 new cases. A similar picture is emerging in Gibraltar and Monaco, where rates are now above 40.