Greece to reopen museums next week, ahead of tourism

FILE PHOTO: Acropolis Museum employees wear protective face masks, as museums open following the easing of measures against the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Athens, Greece, June 15, 2020. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis/File Photo

ATHENS (Reuters) - Museums in Greece will reopen to visitors next week, a day before the official start of the tourism season on May 15, authorities said on Friday.

Venues such as Athens' Acropolis museum, housing archaeological treasures found near the ancient citadel overlooking the city, have been closed since mid-November, when a second lockdown was imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The government started easing restrictions late last month after a small reduction in COVID-19 cases.

It allowed bars and restaurants to reopen earlier this week while organised beaches will open on Saturday for the first time this year.

"It is obvious that the country’s epidemiological picture is showing a steady improvement," Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said.

He said authorities had recorded a reduction in the epidemiological burden, as the number of infections fall and vaccinations increase, in 61 regions including Athens and Thessaloniki, and an increase in only 10 regions.

Tourism accounts for about a fifth of Greece's economy and job market, and after the worst year on record for the sector last year the country can ill afford another lost summer.

Open-air cinemas will resume on May 21 while open-air performances on May 28. Primary schools will open on May 10 and daycare centres on May 17.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said this week that a combination of widespread testing, immunisation, and the fact that many activities would take place outdoors gave authorities confidence that tourists would be able to visit safely.

A country of 11 million, it has reported a total of 358,116 infections and 10,910 deaths. On Friday, it reported 2,691 new infections and 63 deaths.

(Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas; Editing by Alison Williams)

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