- Title: Greece shuts all museums and ruins over coronavirus, including Acropolis
- Date: 13th March 2020
- Summary: ATHENS, GREECE (MARCH 12, 2020) (REUTERS) STREET BAND PLAYING GREEK MUSIC WITH A BOUZOUKI BENEATH THE ACROPOLIS HILL
- Keywords: Acropolis Greece arqueological sites coronavirus health local business museums tourism
- Reuters ID: LVA002C4VYGQV
- Location: ATHENS, GREECE
- City: ATHENS, GREECE
- Country: Greece
- Duration: 00:00:27
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Topics: Health/Medicine
- Story Text: Greece will close all its museums and archaeological sites, including its most famous site, the Acropolis, until the end of the month due to the impact of the coronavirus, the culture ministry said on Friday (March 13).
With 117 confirmed cases and one fatality by late Thursday, the country has also cancelled public gatherings and shut down schools, theatres, cinemas and gyms.
Viktor Templer, from Berlin, received the news as he was exiting the National Archaeological Museum. He still had a few days to spend in the Greek capital, and was not sure whether his stay would now go as planned.
"Luckily we already visited the bigger things like Acropolis, but we still have a few days here. On Sunday we want to take a boat and visit three islands, but we don't know if that will be possible," he said.
Tourist Amelia Vangel from France said she was disappointed.
"It is our fourth day here and it is our first time in the city, so we are super disappointed because we wanted to see all the museums and all the archaeological sites...But we understand because we come from France and the same thing is happening there. So we understand," she said.
Concern over the disease has prompted travel restrictions across the globe and has already hurt tourism, a key income earner for Greece, which attracted more than 33 million visitors last year. The ruins atop the Acropolis in Athens are among the most visited tourist sites in the world.
Bookings for Greece have taken a hit by the coronavirus outbreak, a source at the country's leading tourism association (SETE) said on Thursday.
Occupancy rates in Athens have fallen to about 10% from 60% to 70% the same period last year, another source from the tourism industry said.
Streets in the tourist district of Athens and around the Acropolis had already started emptying in the last days, causing a panic among tourism businesses, who, like the rest of the country, has just started to recover from an almost decade long financial crisis.
Christos Rabos owns three restaurants in the heart of Athens, all almost empty this week. He said business has dropped more than 60 percent.
"March and April will be low in consumption. Now what will happen after, how this virus will develop, what measures the health ministry and the government will take, we can't say," he said, adding he was implementing measures such as providing customers and staff with hand sanitizer in his three establishments .
Kostas Panagopoulos is the manager of a souvenir shop in the picturesque district of Plaka. Seeing how the streets of Athens empty by the hour breaks his heart.
"Our shops have been affected by the coronavirus, because tourism is one of the most sensitive sectors, it is affected immediately, that is a fact. In terms of returns this will put us back years, back to the years of 2015, 2014," he said, referring to the years when the financial crisis was at a peak and now one was spending.
Greece has announced financial relief measures for companies in areas hit by the coronavirus including a deferment on value-added tax (VAT) payments and social security payments due at the end of March.
The government will increase the health ministry's budget by 15 million euros and encouraged employers to consider work-from-home initiatives.
Economic growth could still slow to 2.21% or 1.88% this year, the country's fiscal council projected last week. That means the government may need to look for budget "cushions" for possible extraordinary spending on health.
(Production: Stamos Prousalis, Elena Gyldenkerne and Deborah Kyvrikosaios)
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