Prince Charles Greece visit: why are the Prince of Wales and Camilla in Athens amid rise in covid cases?

Greece recorded its highest number of coronavirus cases since November on the day of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall’s arrival
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall arrived in Athens on Thursday (Getty Images)Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall arrived in Athens on Thursday (Getty Images)
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall arrived in Athens on Thursday (Getty Images)

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall watched a military parade to mark Greek Independence Day in Athens, after declaring a profound connection to the country.

The visit comes amid concerns that international travel could be limited this summer with the Westminster government revealing that fines of £5,000 could be dished out to those who embark on non-essential travel.

Some have questioned whether the trip is necessary as the threat of a third wave of coronavirus cases on the continent becomes increasingly likely.

The couple have already travelled overseas during the pandemic, visiting Germany in November for a brief two-day trip to attend commemorations marking the country’s National Day of Mourning.

What are they doing in Greece?

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall arrived in Greece on Thursday night for an official two-day visit.

The couple are attending the Bicentenary Independence Day celebrations, following an invitation from Greece’s prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Clarence House announced the visit to Athens last week in a statement which said: “At the request of the British Government, Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will attend the Bicentenary Independence Day celebrations in Athens from March 24-25.

“This follows an invitation from the prime minister of Greece, Mr Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

“The Bicentenary Event’s Independence Day celebrations will take place from the evening of Wednesday March 24 and will conclude on Thursday March 25.”

Why has the visit been criticised?

The UK is currently under strict lockdown restrictions with travel abroad severely limited.

While it is illegal to travel abroad for holidays, travel for a range of professions, including defence personnel and some HGV drivers, is permitted.

But some have questioned whether the royals’ visit is essential.

Under the current road map for easing restrictions, the earliest date people in England could go on holiday abroad would be May 17.

Graham Smith, chief executive of Republic, an anti-monarchy campaign group, compared Charles to an influencer travelling to Dubai for work purposes, while former Home Office minister Norman Baker said “ordinary people” who are unable to travel will “take a dim view” of the visit.

Mr Smith said: “There’s really no difference between Prince Charles and some twenty-something influencer going to some other country in breach of the rules just to say: ‘Look at me, I’m here’.

“These royal trips are entirely unnecessary, they are certainly not essential travel, and there is no justification for them.

“The royals have a desperate need to look useful and they do that with these trips, and given that everyone else has been stuck in the UK for a year at the risk of large fines, I think it’s pretty poor taste.

“It’s going to cause some level of confusion about why there’s apparently no risk of Charles and Camilla catching and spreading coronavirus, but for everyone else, there is.

“The Government needs to explain why they have allowed that to happen and Prince Charles needs to explain why he agreed to go.

“People are quite upset about being told they can’t go overseas, when often this is the only break they get in a year.”

Former Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker said: “Ordinary people in Britain having to endure lockdown and unable to take foreign holidays for the foreseeable future will take a dim view of Charles and Camilla escaping for a nice jolly in Greece.

“As so often with the monarchy, it looks like one rule for the royals and one for everybody else.”

What is the current Covid situation in Greece?

Greece is aiming to reopen its borders to foreign tourists from May 14.

Visitors will be required to have been vaccinated, had a recent negative Covid-19 test or have coronavirus antibodies.

On March 24, the day of the royals’ arrival, Greece recorded it’s highest number of cornavirus cases since mid-November.

There are mounting fears that Greece, along with much of continental Europe, could be set for a new wave of coronavirus cases.