A waitress wearing a protective facemask and plastic gloves serves coffee at a cafe in central Athens on May 25, 2020, as cafes, bars, restaurants reopen two months after their closure due to epidemic COVID-19 caused by the novel coronavirus. (ARIS MESSINIS / AFP)
ATHENS — Greece allowed cafes and restaurants to reopen on Monday as part of a gradual lifting of its coronavirus restrictions to reboot its tourism-dependent economy and help draw in foreign visitors ahead of the summer season.
The country, which has emerged from a decade-long financial crisis in the last couple of years, is relying on tourism to help it recover from a nationwide lockdown that brought its economy to a near standstill.
People drink coffee in Plaka district of Athens, on May 25, 2020. (PETROS GIANNAKOURIS / AP)
So far, the country has managed to contain the spread of COVID-19 infections to just 2,878 cases and 171 deaths - low numbers compared with elsewhere in the EU
With tables set far apart and waitresses wearing masks, restaurants served the many Greeks keen to get out and enjoy food and a cup of coffee again after roughly two months of confinement.
“We have missed this, this is psychological therapy for us, so of course it’s important, very, very important,” said Katerina Stravaridi from a cafe in Athens.
So far, the country has managed to contain the spread of COVID-19 infections to just 2,878 cases and 171 deaths - low numbers compared with elsewhere in the EU - mainly by imposing an early nationwide lockdown in March.
Athens mayor Kostas Bakoyannis said reopening the food services sector is a prelude for the summer holiday season.
“Greece is open and safe. It’s a destination where one can enjoy one’s holiday while at the same time securing one’s health,” he said.
A restaurant waiter wearing a mask to reduce the spread of the coronavirus writes on a paper in Monastiraki district of Athens, on May 25, 2020. Greece restarted regular ferry services to its islands Monday, and cafes and restaurants were also back open for business as the country accelerated efforts to salvage its tourism season. (PETROS GIANNAKOURIS / AP)
Travel to all the Greek islands was also restored on Monday, with passenger ferries operating at 50 percent of their capacity, as the country prepares to reopen year-round hotels on June 1.
Seasonal hotels will be open from June 15, when some direct international flights from the Athens international airport will also resume.
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