Passengers in the Aegean Sea region are being put on high alert as the government in Turkey imposed restrictions on all international flights from Greek airports.
The government said on Monday that it will not allow foreign airlines to use the Aegyan Sea for flights between Turkey and the southern European country of Cyprus, a move that has led to protests and a boycott of Greek-Turkish flights.
The ban applies to flights from Istanbul, Adana, Adrak, Bodrum, Kayseri, Nicosia, Samos, Samara and other Aegeans airports.
It is the latest in a series of measures that have forced thousands of tourists to travel to Greece for holidays this summer.
The move comes amid fears of an influx of refugees fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, particularly Syria, and fears that Turkey is becoming increasingly vulnerable to economic and social chaos.
The decision by the government comes just days after it was reported that Greece’s economy could contract by more than 7% this year, which would be the worst recorded contraction since the 2008 financial crisis.
The Greek government said in a statement that the ban was necessary to protect public safety and to prevent an outbreak of diseases.
“The ban is a necessary measure to protect our national security, to prevent a potential influx of diseases, and to ensure the safety of our citizens,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said.
Greek officials have warned that there is an “increased risk of a virus outbreak” in the region, after reports of the virus spreading in Turkey.
“I am very concerned about the fact that it is being brought here.
I am very worried about the way the Greek state is dealing with this situation,” a Greek government official told The Associated Press news agency.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the matter publicly.
Greek police say the ban has caused chaos at the airports where passengers are stuck waiting for flights to be cancelled.
Greek authorities say the restrictions will continue until the outbreak of the pandemic is eradicated in Greece.
The European Union and Turkey are in talks to find a solution to the problem.
In an interview with AFP news agency on Monday, Tsipraesaid the restrictions are needed to prevent “a potential influx” of diseases that have been spreading in the country.
Turkish officials have also said they have no plans to impose the ban in the coming days.
The restrictions are due to expire at the end of the week.
Greece’s Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Monday said that the restrictions “will be lifted once the virus is completely contained”.