Greece, Italy and France reopen beaches as coronavirus lockdown eases

Hit the beach…but keep your umbrellas 13ft apart! Sunbathers relax by the sea in Athens but are warned to follow social distancing rules as beaches in Greece, France and Italy reopen for first time during lockdown

  • Droves of people flocked to European beaches as lockdown restrictions eased 
  • Greece re-opened 500 beaches as it looks to get the tourist sector running 
  • Social distancing is still in place and umbrellas must be some 13feet apart
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Beaches in Greece, France and Italy were open Saturday for the first weekend since the easing of coronavirus lockdowns.

Scores of people flocked to the beaches, to make up for time spent indoors and to capitalise on the timely arrival of one of the first heatwaves of the year. 

More than 500 beaches reopened across Greece, as the country sought to walk the fine line between protecting people from COVID-19 while reviving the tourism sector that many depend on for their livelihoods.

As the sun took to the skies of Athens on Saturday, citizens wasted little time in taking to the shores – sunning themselves on the sands before dipping into the ocean.

The beaches of Athens brimmed on Saturday as people took the first tentative steps outdoors following the first stage of relaxing the lockdown restrictions in Greece

People sunned themselves as Greece bids to kick-start its vital tourism sector – though social distancing rules must still be observed, authorities have said

Across the country work had begun at frantic pace on Friday, in order to get beaches ready for crowds once more.

Workers were pictured toiling in the midday heat, setting up canopies and seating areas for outside beach bars. 

Sun-seekers were required to respect social distancing rules, which even stipulated how far umbrellas must be kept apart.

Guidelines stated no more than 40 people were allowed per 1,000 square metres (10,750 sq ft), while umbrella poles had to be four metres (13 ft) apart, with canopies no closer than one metre, according to a government-issued manual, complete with diagram.

On Friday workers across Greece’s beaches put in hard graft to make sure things were ready

Canopies, bars and seating areas were quickly erected ahead of the return of tourism

Workers carry a scaffolding on “Paradise” beach in the Greek Cycladic island of Mykonos. Like many European countries Greece has huge reliance upon its tourism industry

At Alimos, a popular beach just south of Athens, people queued up from early morning to nab their spot in the sunshine.

‘This is the best thing for us elderly … to come and relax a bit after being locked in,’ a 70-year-old local Yannis Tentomas told Reuters, as he settled down under an umbrella.

He said he was complying with distancing rules, adding: ‘It’s like a gun to the head.’

Italy and France have also started to ease people back into a degree of normality, hoping to keep the virus at bay and avoid a deadly second spike while breathing life back into their respective economies.

France called for self-restraint as the country prepared for its first weekend since easing its lockdown, warning that police would break up any large gatherings.

With the European summer fast approaching, the key tourism industry is trying to salvage something from the wreckage.

Parasols and sun-loungers are starting to appear on coastlines in Italy.

‘It moves me to see these sunshades,’ said Simone Battistoni, whose family has been running the Bagno Milano beach concession in Cesenatico on Italy’s east coast since 1927.

Austria took an important symbolic step Friday by reopening its restaurants and traditional Viennese cafes.

‘We missed it and we’re going to come back as much as possible,’ said Fanny and Sophie, 19-year-old students waiting for breakfast at a cafe in the Austrian capital.

As some countries start to reopen despite fears of a second wave of the pandemic, US President Donald Trump voiced hope that a vaccine would be available by late 2020.

‘We are looking to get it by the end of the year if we can, maybe before,’ Trump told reporters at the White House Friday as he discussed America’s ‘Operation Warp Speed’ effort in the global race for a vaccine.

The timeline – deemed unrealistic by many experts – is more aggressive than the one-year scenario put forward by European scientists.

The hunt for a vaccine for a disease that the World Health Organization (WHO) says may never disappear has also threatened to become a source of tension between the globe’s haves and have-nots, with trials underway in various countries.

Some European countries cannot afford to wait, however, and this weekend marks the first tentative steps of bringing public life back to a more recognisable level.

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