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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

May 27, 2020
AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris

Fancy a holiday?

In a bid to salvage its summer tourism season, Greece is allowing restaurants to reopen and island ferry service to resume, following coronavirus-related closures.

The Mediterranean nation’s low infection rate of COVID-19 allowed government officials to restart the summer holiday season three weeks earlier than previously anticipated, the Associated Press reports. Ferry service to its famed islands reopened on Monday, while restaurants and cafes have opened their doors for business once again.

Though foreign tourists are not expected to be allowed to visit until June 15, per The Guardian, Greek vacationers are welcome back – though they must heed new social distancing rules and other health safety measure

Spiros Bairaktaris runs the At Bairaktaris restaurant in Athens, a family business in operation for over 140 years. Though the capacity of the establishment’s indoor seating area has been reduced from 100 to 30, Bairaktaris is confident that customers will come.

“We will implement exactly what the state has told us, whatever the doctors have told us, first and foremost for the safety of our customers,” Bairaktaris said. From providing employees with face masks and plastic visors to widely spacing tables, the business owner is doing all he can to make both personnel and patrons feel safe.

“Many will come to Greece because we had the fewest number of deaths compared to other countries. And thank God for that,” he added.

To date, Greece has had only 171 deaths from the novel coronavirus, which has claimed the lives of almost 170,000 across Europe, taking a particularly deadly toll in Italy, Spain and Turkey.

At the onset of the outbreak, Greece shut down quickly. Ever-popular island destinations like Santorini, Mykonos, Corfu and Samos have been mostly off limits since the lockdown took effect in late March, with access only allowed for permanent residents and goods suppliers.

As tourism gradually opens up, officials are enforcing various precautionary measures. Passenger limits have been imposed on ferries and state-run health services are expanding across the islands; intensive care units are being set up on the isles of Lesbos, Samos, Rhodes, Zakynthos and Corfu, in addition to existing ICU facilities on Crete.

A critical component of the Greek economy, tourism directly contributes more than 10 percent of the country’s GDP, as Greece struggles to arise from years of financial crisis.

According to government data, over 34 million visitors visited Greece last year, spending about $19.5 billion.