ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece says its tourism services will open on May 15 when a ban on travel between different regions of the country will also be lifted.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis made the announcement in a televised address Wednesday, adding that restaurants and cafes will be allowed to reopen outdoor areas starting on May 3.
Restrictions, many of which have been in effect since early November, will remain in place over Orthodox Easter on May 2.
“Our goal is to have a safe Easter and a free summer. But one cannot undermine the other,” Mitsotakis said.
“That’s why we should not travel at Easter. Athens and other cities still have many COVID cases. Mass movement carries the risk of spreading the virus everywhere.”
Despite the lockdown measures, Greece has struggled to contain a flare-up in cases that started in late January, and its mortality rate remains above the European Union average. The cumulative death toll reached 9,713 on Wednesday. Tourism is a key industry for the Greek economy, and travel receipts last year sank by more than 75% from 2019, dropping from 18.2 billion euros to 4.3 billion euros ($21.9 billion to $5.2 billion). The slump, together with the impact of domestic lockdown measures helped push Greece into recession, with gross domestic product plummeting by 8.2% last year.
On Monday, Greece lifted quarantine restrictions for travelers from EU member states, the U.S., Britain, the United Arab Emirates, Serbia, Israel, and non-EU members Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland that are part of a European travel pact. Travelers from those countries are no longer be subject to a seven-day quarantine requirement.
Easter is considered to be the most important religious holiday in the predominantly Orthodox Christian country and is often celebrated with relatives in rural ancestral homes.
After the holidays, schools will reopen on May 10 for grades 1 through 9. Students in the final three grades returned to class on April 12.