With widely spaced lounge chairs and regular sanitization, Greece reopened its organized beaches on Saturday as the popular Mediterranean holiday destination eases the COVID-19 borders in anticipation of the return of foreign visitors next week.
Tourism accounts for around a fifth of Greece’s economy and jobs, and – after the industry’s worst year on record last year – the country can hardly afford another lost summer. Read more
“We place our hopes in tourism,” said Nikos Venieris, who runs a sandy beach in the seafront suburb of Alimos, just outside the capital, Athens, where social distancing measures will remain in place.
“We are one of the places along the Athens Riviera… which receives many tourists, so the number of foreign visitors will play an important role in our finances,” he added.
Under current measures, beach managers like Venieris will need to place umbrellas for at least four meters (13 feet), perform regular disinfection, and test beach bar workers and other staff for COVID-19.
Greece did well in bringing the first wave of the pandemic under control last year, but an upsurge in cases pushed health services to their limits and prompted authorities to impose a second lockdown in November.
As infections have plummeted and vaccinations have accelerated, authorities have gradually eased restrictions, opening bars and restaurants earlier this week.
On Friday, they announced that the museums would reopen next week before travel restrictions were lifted for foreign visitors vaccinated on May 15.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said a combination of widespread testing, vaccination and the fact that many activities would take place outside gave authorities confidence that tourists could reach it safely.
For lovers of Greek beaches, the reopening of the country’s largest beaches on Saturday was an opportunity to let off steam after months of lockdown.
“We have been yearning for this for six months, because we are winter swimmers and we really missed it,” said Spiros Linardos, retiree, lying on a lounge chair at Alimos.
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