A ministry statement Tuesday said the posters stuck up outside apartment buildings in the city centre, festooned with fake ministry and Athens municipality logos, were “absolutely false”.
The posters, addressed to “dear visitors” in misspelled English, claimed health authorities had ordered local “private guesthouses” evacuated “to protect the public health of permanent Greek tenants”.
Citing a nonexistent bedbug infestation, they threatened visitors with a €500 fine ($880) for failure to leave their accommodation and politely wished them a pleasant stay in Greece.
In addition to a cost-of-living crisis, Athens and other parts of Greece face housing problems largely caused by the proliferation of short-term rental apartments — mainly for foreign visitors.
That has helped fuel a surge in long-term rental costs for Greeks, many of whom are priced out of residential areas in central Athens. Property values are also spiralling, in part because of a “golden visa” programme offering residence to foreign property investors.
Tourism is a key driver of Greece’s economy, accounting for a fifth of annual output, and 2023 is expected to be a record year for arrivals.
The health ministry said on Tuesday that it has informed the police “to do what is necessary” about the hoax. It said that “nobody is allowed to terrorise and misinform the public” on public health issues.
Greece hasn’t recorded any major trouble with the bloodsucking creepy crawlies that recently caused consternation in France.
During the Rugby World Cup, Paris was hit with an infestation of bed bugs, which were found in cinema seats, hotels and metro cars.
Reports also claimed the bugs were crawling around the Paris Charles de Gaulle International Airport.
Over summer the French government said the country was experiencing the largest resurgence of the “punaise de lit” (bed ticks) since the 1950s.