Greece to reopen outdoor eating ahead of tourism push
Greece will reopen outdoor bars and restaurants in early May, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced Wednesday, but he dashed hopes that travel restrictions might be relaxed before the Orthodox Easter.
Health officials meanwhile announced that younger people would soon be available for AstraZeneca vaccination — because people ahead of them in the queue were reluctant to take it.
Mitsotakis made his announcement in a televised address setting out the roadmap for the country’s gradual return to economic and social activities after months of coronavirus restrictions.
He gave May 15 as the date for the launch of the country’s tourist season.
“On May 3, outdoor catering reopens and the curfew is extended until 11:00 pm with mandatory self-test for employees, distances in the seating, and all the known hygiene measures,” the Prime Minister said in a televised address.
But restrictions on non-essential travel between regions of Greece over the Orthodox Easter period — it falls on May 2 — will remain in place.
“Our goal is a safe Easter and a free summer, but the former cannot undermine the latter,” he said.
Normally over Easter, Greeks flee the cities for the countryside or the islands to celebrate the country’s most significant religious holiday.
While churches this year will be open to the faithful, the number attending will be limited, and services will be held earlier in the day to conform with a government-imposed curfew.
All students will have returned to school by May 10, Mitsotakis added.
– ‘A lot of fatigue’ –
“I know there is a lot of fatigue,” he added.
“But we have new allies: vaccinations, self-tests, but also the warm weather make us optimistic that this unprecedented adventure will soon be over.”
Health officials meanwhile announced that from next Tuesday those in the 30-39 age group would be able to apply for the AstraZeneca vaccine — because many other people have been reluctant to get it.
“Those aged between 30 and 39 who want to get vaccinated ahead of schedule will be able to do so,” said senior health ministry official Marios Themistokleous.
Some people have been scared of the AstraZeneca vaccine after reports of blood clots in a very small number of cases.
Themistokleous stressed that millions of people in Europe had received the AstraZeneca vaccine, with very few incidents reported.
Greece coped relatively well during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, but the second wave has hit it hard, and the country went into lockdown in early November.
In recent months the death rate has rapidly risen and the public health system has been pushed to its limits, especially in the Greek capital, where more than half of the cases are reported daily.
On Wednesday, health officials said the total number of coronavirus cases and deaths stood at 323,639 and 9,713 respectively.