Thousands of travelers from Albania formed an enormous queue of cars at the Greek border Friday and Saturday. They are rushing to re-enter Greece for work ahead of new COVID-19 rules, police says.
Around 4,000 cars were jammed in a 20-kilometre-long line at the Kakavia border crossing in southern Albania. It grew since Greece announced tougher entry requirements at the start of the week to contain a surge in infections.
The changes come as thousands of Albanians who live and work in Greece, mainly in the agriculture sector, were preparing to return after summer holidays at home.
Under Athens’ new rules, daily arrivals from Albania should be 750 after August 16.
Travelers will also have to have to present a negative COVID-19 test carried out within 72 hours of their arrival in Greece and self-isolate for seven days.
Currently, those entering from Albania take virus tests at the border and provide contact information in case they are positive.
Some cars are waiting for three days already, according to an Albanian police source. Greek health teams are working with a reduced number of staff and that the border post closes at night.
Albania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that Greek authorities are trying to ease the logjam by increasing the number of tests from 200 to 300 per hour.
Police broadcast images of officers distributing water bottles to families struggling in the heat. Meanwhile, the Albanian President Ilir Meta says the situation is worrying.
Infections are increasing in Albania, where some 225 people have died from COVID-19, according to the official toll.
Doctors warn the situation is deteriorating while the authorities blame citizens for failing to respect safety instructions.
Imported cases from the Balkans
In late July, deputy Minister of Civil Protection of Greece, Nikos Hardalias provided the figures for the COVID-19 testing procedures. The data includes the first 19 days since Greece borders are open to tourists from the EU and 18 non-EU countries.
He notes that 78% of the imported cases come from the Balkan countries. In particular, most imported cases are from Serbia (78), Bulgaria (63), Romania (61), Albania (23) and the USA (6).