Greece to restart tourism June 15, international flights July 1

Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis addresses the Greek nation on State TV in Athens, May 20, 2020. (AP Photo)
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Updated 20 May 2020

Greece to restart tourism June 15, international flights July 1

  • Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis: We will win the economy war just as we won the health battle
  • Tourism Minister Harry Theocharis said a list of nations resuming flights to Greece would be announced by the end of May

ATHENS: Greece will restart its tourism season on June 15 in a key boost to the economy after the virus lockdown, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Wednesday, adding that international flights would resume on July 1.
“The tourism period begins June 15, when seasonal hotels can reopen, and direct international flights to our tourist destinations will gradually begin July 1,” Mitsotakis said in a televised address.
With Greece suffering fewer than 170 COVID-19 deaths over two months into the pandemic, Mitsotakis said the country’s prompt response to the virus would be a “passport of safety, credibility and health” to attract visitors.
“We will win the economy war just as we won the health battle,” Mitsotakis said.
Tourism Minister Harry Theocharis said a list of nations resuming flights to Greece would be announced by the end of May, noting that Athens would focus on reviving a travel front “from the Balkans to the Baltic.”
Bulgarians and northern Europeans including Germans will be among the first visitors, the minister said, in addition to Israelis and Cypriots.
Incoming travelers will not be required to undergo virus testing or quarantine, but sample tests will be carried out in tourist areas, the minister said.
Theocharis added that 600 beds would be specifically set aside for coronavirus care on Greek islands.
The country, which is still recovering from a decade-long debt crisis, badly needs tourism income that directly and indirectly accounts for over a fifth of its economy.
According to the tourism ministry, Greece last year had 33 million visitors and tourism revenue of 19 billion euros ($21 billion).
To increase Greece’s appeal, tax on all transport will be reduced to 13 percent from the current 24 percent for the coming five months, the prime minister said.
The Greek finance ministry earlier on Wednesday noted that without support measures for businesses, the country could face an economic contraction of up to 13 percent this year.


India faces worst locust crisis in decades

Updated 05 June 2020

India faces worst locust crisis in decades

  • Indo-Pak border a breeding ground for bug; worst attack in over 20 years, says expert

NEW DELHI: Suresh Kumar was sipping tea on the balcony of his Jaipur house on Friday when the sun suddenly disappeared. Thinking it was probably a black cloud that was filtering out the daylight, he looked up and saw swarms of locusts covering the sky of the capital city of the western Indian state of Rajasthan.

Within a few minutes, short-horned grasshoppers were everywhere —walls, balconies and nearby trees — as they forced people to take refuge in their houses.

“It was unprecedented,” Kumar, who lives in Jaipur’s walled city area, told Arab News on Thursday. “Never before have I witnessed such a scene. Suddenly millions of aliens invaded our locality. Some residents of the neighborhood tried to bang some steel plates to shoo them off, but the jarring sound did not make much of an impact. However, the swarms left the area within an hour or so.”

More than a thousand kilometers away, in the Balaghat district of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, farmer Dev Singh had a similar experience, although the bugs not only occupied his farmhouse, they destroyed the budding leaves of different kinds of pulses which he had sown in his field.

“Only a few weeks ago I harvested the wheat crop,” he told Arab News. “In a way, I’m lucky that the locusts have come now … otherwise the damage would have been much greater,” but he added that “with the pulse plant damaged in good measure, the yield will not be great this year.”

His area has been cleared of the locusts after the intervention of local authorities, which sprayed chemicals to kill the bugs and blared out sirens to shoo them off.

India is already grappling with an alarming surge of coronavirus cases and struggling to cope with the devastation caused by a recent cyclone. The country is also dealing with rising unemployment figures after more than 100 million people went jobless due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is facing security issues, too, in the form of a seething border dispute with China. The locust invasion has added to beleaguered India’s laundry list of woes.

Scientists said it was a serious crisis.

“This is the worst locust attack in more than two decades,” Dr. K. L. Gurjar, of the Faridabad-based Locust Warning Organization, told Arab News. “Compared to the past, these locusts are younger and have traveled a longer distance. This should be a cause of concern. The states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh will be badly impacted. We are controlling and containing the situation on a daily basis.”

According to media reports, around 50,000 hectares of farmland have been destroyed by desert locusts in the two states during the last four weeks.

“The problem will persist until the invasion of swarms continues from across the border in Pakistan and Iran. The Indo-Pak border has become the breeding ground for the bug,” Gurjar added.

But he remained hopeful that the country would get rid of the menace through its measures, despite the present danger.

“There is a danger of locusts remaining alive for a longer period, though we are hopeful to ultimately sort them out.”

The Jawaharlal Nehru Agriculture University (JNAU) of Jabalpur has also been monitoring the situation in Madhya Pradesh, noting that locusts damage the crop completely wherever they go.

“Desert locusts stay immobile throughout the night and their movement begins again in the morning and they fly along the direction of the wind,” JNAU’s Dr. Om Gupta told Arab News. “Wherever they find shelter, they damage the crops in totality. In some areas, locusts have created havoc.”

She added that spray was generally used in the evening or early morning to kill the bugs. “They breed very fast and we focus on killing their eggs. What we are dealing with is nothing short of a catastrophe, and we are not going to get respite from this anytime soon.”