A coast guard officer wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, walks on the dock as a ferry, right, leaves and another one approaches the Aegean Sea island of Milos, Greece, on Tuesday, May 26, 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. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
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ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece lifted lockdown restrictions Monday for hotels, open-air cinemas, golf courses and public swimming pools as the country ramped up preparations for the crucial summer tourism season to start in two weeks. Primary school children also returned to class.

Strict public safety measures have kept Greece’s COVID-19 infection rate low. The country has seen only 179 virus-related deaths, according to Health Ministry data.

International flights with screening procedures will return to Athens and Greece’s second-largest city of Thessaloniki starting on June 15 and will be expanded to the rest of the country on July 1.

Screening for arriving passengers will be based on an assessment by a European Union flight safety authority, with arrivals from low-infection countries being subjected only to random testing.

“Greece is continuously monitoring epidemiological data, in collaboration with experts and European and international organizations,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas said. “We will receive visitors from countries that are improving in their infection curve and remain vigilant in the event of any deterioration.”

Year-round hotels were allowed to reopen Monday but many chose to remain closed until closer to the start of the tourism season, citing low bookings.

Panos Betis, who runs a travel business and three hotels in Athens, decided to reopen Monday, arguing that it would be easier to gradually increase capacity.

"Today, we opened two rooms and tomorrow three. It’s like building an anthill,” Betis told The Associated Press as employees wearing face masks tidied a rooftop restaurant and cleaned a window facing the ancient Acropolis.

“We can’t compare the season to last year. We were at 95% capacity. Our aim now is to hang in there till 2021,” he said.

Other businesses in Greece were allowed to restart Monday, including campsites, wedding reception services, tattoo parlors and dating agencies.


Petros Giannakouris and Iliana Mier in Athens contributed.


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