ATHENS (Reuters) – 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.
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.
Travel to all the Greek islands was also restored on Monday, with passenger ferries operating at 50% 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.
(Reporting by Vassilis Triandafyllou; Writing by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Hugh Lawson)