Mykonos, Greece's famed party island, falls silent under new COVID rules

Tourists are seen in front of closed shops and restaurants in Mykonos town as Greece banned music in restaurants and bars and imposed a nighttime curfew on Mykonos island, in Mykonos Greece, July 18, 2021. REUTERS/Louiza Vradi

MYKONOS, Greece (Reuters) - There was no music and no dancing on Greece's famed party island Mykonos on Sunday as new rules to contain the spread of COVID-19 pushed tourists to cancel holidays and left business owners fuming.

Tourism accounts for a fifth of the Greek economy and the country desperately needs a strong season this year following a collapse in visitor numbers and revenues to record lows in 2020.

Mykonos is one of its most popular destinations, attracting more than a million visitors each summer, among them Hollywood stars, models and world-famous athletes.

"They decide to destroy the economy of the island at the most critical time of the year," said Iraklis Zisimopoulos, head of a business owners' association who owns two hotels, two restaurants and four bars on the island.

"We hope they will change their minds quickly," Zisimopoulos said, adding he had about 30-40 hotel cancellations already.

Authorities said they were forced to impose a week-long nighttime curfew and ban on music on Saturday after a "worrying" local outbreak.

Under the rules, music is banned in restaurants, cafes and clubs and only those going to and from work or to the hospital are allowed to move around between 1 a.m to 6 a.m.

In the early hours of Sunday, bars and clubs were shut and the island's narrow cobbled streets - usually bursting with partygoers - were dark and empty.

"My money has gone to waste, my time, I took days off work for no reason. Bye Mykonos," said Dina, a visitor from Saudi Arabia.

"Our holiday has been ruined," said Camilla Pierce, from the UK.

Others said they planned to spend their holiday on nearby islands.

"It is my birthday. I came to celebrate and there is no music, so there is no celebration," said Jesus Marino, a Spanish tourist. "Bring back the music please, please, please, please."

A month-long, country-wide ban on music in restaurants and bars to avoid people getting close to one another to be heard was lifted in June.

But coronavirus infections have been rising in Greece in recent weeks, forcing the government to mandate the vaccination of healthcare workers and nursing home staff. Only vaccinated customers can eat indoors at restaurants and clubs.

(Writing by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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