Brits have been flocking abroad since the Government relaxed its blanket travel ban – but many others are still nervous to head overseas.
However, one Brit who flew to Kos, Greece, last week has said she actually feels safer on the island than in Britain due to the strict measures in place.
Gail Hadfield Grainger said she was nervous before flying but she felt she had to get away after a stressful few months.
The 37-year-old booked last minute flights with Jet2 and set off from Manchester Airport on July 16 with her 11-year-old daughter, along with her friends and their daughter.
Speaking from Kos, in the 36-degree heat, Gail told Manchester Evening News : “I feel so much safer over here. I know where I stand; I feel comfortable that the locals have got everybody’s best interest at heart.
“In the UK you just don’t know what’s going on from one day to the next. Here you feel protected and comfortable.”
Gail, a criminologist who has recently completed a Master’s degree at the University of Salford, said she was nervous before flying but ‘just had to get away.’
“I just got sick to death of everything at home. I’ve been home-schooling so I needed a break and some sunshine,” she said.
“We were worried to start with because we didn’t know if we were going to get quarantined on the way in.
“But it’s been so nice to get away from the UK. It’s such a hostile situation at home, with people moaning, judging people, not wanting to listen; there’s mixed messages from the government and people feel they’re being lied to over the death toll.
“Whereas here they understand they’ve all got to do their bit. There’s clear guidance on what’s expected and they want to make sure the island is looked after. It’s miles different than in the UK.”
Although Gail still has another week until she has to fly back to Manchester, she’s explained what everything has been like so far; from the airport processes, to measures in place around her hotel, and in restaurants and shops.
“I expected the airport to be chaotic and I was panicking with having the kids with me but it ran so much more smoothly than I thought,” said Gail.
The party of five booked flights with Jet2 from Manchester Airport for around £180 per person, which she said was a lot cheaper than normal for this time of year.
“It was probably one of the best flights we’ve had. Everyone was making sure everything ran smoothly because of coronavirus.”
Gail wore a mask the whole time throughout the flight except for when eating and drinking. While air hostesses encouraged passengers to use card payments, when Gail had to use cash, they disposed of their gloves before putting a clean pair on to deal with the next customer.
Every traveller heading to Greece has to fill out a Passenger Locator Form at least 24 hours before their trip. This asks for information such as who they are travelling with, where they live, their destination address etc.
On the day of flying, holidaymakers are emailed a QR code.
Gail said: “These were scanned at the airport when we arrived and it looks like one person from each party is taken aside for a temperature check and a swab.
“My friend who had to do this was told that the hotel would be alerted if she tested positive, but we haven’t heard anything so we’re assuming she was fine.”
Gail said the airport was quiet, with not much open, and there was extra staff guiding travellers to ensure people were keeping a distance from other parties.
They took taxis to their hotel because of how small the island is, but she saw others getting transfers where people had to board one by one onto coaches wearing masks.
Gail added: “The minute we landed, I was so relieved and so glad we’d booked. I’m not going to panic about travelling at all during the pandemic.”
She said there are social distancing markers around her hotel, with protective plastic screens at reception.
While it’s not mandatory to wear a mask around the hotel, guests are required to do so if the reception area gets busy, so you have to carry a mask around with you.
Guests are able to use the pool, but lilos and balls are not allowed – anything that would be passed around or touched by others.
Gail explained: “When we leave the hotel, we hand the keys over to the staff who spray them with disinfectant and put them away. When you come back, they disinfect them again, and pass them back.
“Hotel staff come in each day to change the bin, spray your room with disinfectant, but they won’t touch any of your possessions.
“If you want your bedding changing you have to let the staff know beforehand, then the cleaners will come with protective clothing on.
“There’s just so many things they’ve thought about, they really have it covered. The remote control is even covered in plastic so it can be cleaned.
“Each time a guest moves from the sunbeds and tables, staff will spray the area down with disinfectant.”
Gail, who visits the island at least once a year, said the hotels her family would normally stay at aren’t open, and some are closed for the year “because they haven’t been able to get back on their feet.”
She said some hotels offer online check-in so there’s no need to stand in reception.
Guests are not permitted to use facilities and pools at other hotels.
Activities and excursions need to be booked as usual to control the numbers attending, and the same goes for using hotel gyms, she added.
Gail and her family booked an excursion with Harriet Travel to an island called Nissyros.
In explaining the travel process, Gail said: “I had to fill out a form similar to the one we had to do when we arrived in Greece and they cleaned the pen in between guests. We also had our temperature checked.
“The lady was wearing two masks and latex gloves. She then disinfected a travel card before handing it to us which said we were safe to travel
“We queued up to the boat making sure there was space between our parties. It was absolutely brilliant. She explained they were taking these measures to keep everyone and the island safe.”
All guests had to wear masks and the company offered hand sanitiser to customers when they were greeted.
Gail added: “I was speaking to the lady who ran the excursion and she said when they were in lockdown initially, they had to text the police when they wanted to leave the house and say where they were going. All supermarkets had an allocated number, and then they’d receive a text back confirming the journey which provided a time slot of how long they had.”
Gail said: “Compared to at home where it’s manic, it’s so much more relaxed.
“On occasion at busy supermarkets or in smaller shops, you’re asked to wait outside. And when you walk into supermarkets here, you can buy a mask for about 30p before you enter. There’s disinfectant everywhere you go.”
On one occasion, Gail forgot to wear her mask and was quickly instructed to do so by a shopkeeper. She was told she would be fined 500 euros if she didn’t comply.
Gail said places are closed for longer in the afternoon compared to usual, with a break lasting between 2pm-6pm.
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Gail said every member of staff is in either a mask or visor, or wearing both.
“There’s nothing on the table when you arrive so no salt and pepper pots for example, everything is in disposable sachets. Tables are covered in disposable paper cloths,” she continued.
“The majority of the time, you’re eating outside which is safer, and you just sit with whoever you are with.
“When it comes to paying the bill, the staff wipe the table down, throw everything away, disinfect it, and get it set up again for the next family to come along. They’re handling it really well.”
Gail added: “It’s the same in bars. Last night we watched a live band at Treasure Island. All staff are in masks, tables are spread out outside, and as soon as you’ve finished with something, you see the staff washing it straight away.”
She said some places have online menus.
“One thing that’s quite sad to see is empty beaches. The tourism here has taken a massive hit. It’s absolutely dead,” Gail said.
“Usually it’s rows and rows of sunbeds, but they’re divided into twos with gaps in between and there doesn’t seem to be as many beds.
“The beach bars have the same cleaning processes as all the restaurants.”
On a final note, Gail said: “As long as people are sensible, I’d recommend booking, as long as you’re willing to respect the country’s views and how they’re handling the virus, then definitely fly out.
“If you’re going to go and abuse it, don’t go because you’ll ruin it for everyone else.
“The trip has made me want to travel again so if I find another deal when I get home, I’ll come back straight away.”
According to the latest data from the World Health Organisation, Greece has a total of 4,077 cases and a total of 200 coronavirus-related deaths. Local data suggests one case of coronavirus has been reported in Kos.