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Greece lifts its lockdown on hotels, pools, golf courses

Last Updated Jun 1, 2020 at 1:08 pm EDT

Hotel worker Mailinda Kaci cleans the windows in a restaurant area at the Acropolian Spirit Hotel in central Athens as the ancient Acropolis is seen in the background, on Monday June 1, 2020. Lockdown restrictions were lifted on non-seasonal hotels Monday as the country prepares to start its tourism season on June 15. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS, Greece — 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 parlours and dating agencies.

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Petros Giannakouris and Iliana Mier in Athens contributed.

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Follow Gatopoulos at http://www.twitter.com/dgatopoulos

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Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Derek Gatopoulos, The Associated Press