ATHENS: Greece said Thursday it will open 515 beaches from Saturday as a balmy weekend approaches, but apply strict social distancing measures owing to the coronavirus.
“This will be an important test which we must come through … We shall have to show that with rules and a serious approach we shall be able to enjoy our country’s beauty in total security,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas said.
Greece is applying strict rules to beach use despite having escaped relatively lightly during the Covid-19 pandemic with 152 deaths to date and 2,744 cases.
A maximum 40 people will be allowed per 1000 m2 (10,800 square feet) of beach while parasols must be placed four metres (13 feet) apart.
Loungers will be sprayed with disinfectant after every use and there will be no cafe or drinks services.
Athens is keen to prove itself proactive and reassure visitors as the summer season approaches.
As Greece began to exit confinement on May 4, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he was committed to doing all he could to ensure the tourist season can begin from July 1.
The government is still fine-tuning its approach, notably with regard to virus-related rules governing transport links.
Under provisional rules, restaurants and cafes are to resume business from June 1 and hotels from the end of June.
As Greece races to rescue its summer plans, the International Monetary Fund has already warned the country stands to make huge losses given that tourism accounts for a 12 percent slice of GDP — comparable with fellow sun-kissed Spain.
According to the IMF, the pandemic shock to the economy and six weeks of confinement will see Greek GDP sink around 10 percent this year before a 5.5 percent recovery in 2021.