Greece’s health ministry has asked police to help tackle bedbug hoaxers trying to scare foreign tourists out of some Athens short-term rental apartments.
On Tuesday, the ministry issued a statement that said “absolutely false” posters were put up outside apartment buildings in the city centre, complete with fake ministry and Athens municipality logos.
The posters claimed health authorities had ordered local “private guesthouses” to be evacuated “to protect the public health of permanent Greek tenants.”
Warnings were addressed to visitors and were written in misspelled English.
Referring to a non-existent bedbug infestation, visitors were told to leave their accommodation and threatened with a 500 euro fine (£428) for failure to do so. This was followed by a message wishing visitors a pleasant stay in Greece.
The health ministry has informed the police “to do what is necessary” to combat the hoax, saying “nobody is allowed to terrorise and misinform the public” on public health issues.
Greece has not reported any major bedbug infestations, despite recent outbreaks in France.
An increase in short-term apartments mainly for foreign visitors, coupled with the cost of living crisis, has worsened housing problems in Athens and other parts of Greece.
Many locals have become priced out of residential areas in central Athens, where there has been a surge in long-term rental costs for Greeks.
Greece’s “golden visa” program, launched in July 2013, offers a five-year residency visa to foreigners in return for an investment in real estate – which has also contributed to spiralling property values.
Tourism plays a key part in driving Greece’s economy and accounts for a fifth of annual output.
Next year is expected to be a record year for arrivals.