Greece reopened the Acropolis in Athens and all open-air archaeological sites in the country to the public on Monday after a two-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
President Katerina Sakellaropoulou led the ceremony as one of the first to visit the ancient Greek monumental complex that sits on a rocky outcrop overlooking the capital.
Culture Minister Lina Mendoni, journalists and employees all wearing masks were present, with measures to control the virus enforced before the public was allowed in.
“We have never seen so few people at the Acropolis,” a Russian visitor accompanied by her husband told AFP.
“It’s like having a private visit,” said the woman, who has lived in Athens for five years.
Separation screens have been put up and the sites have been disinfected, the culture ministry said.
Acropolis saw 2.9 million visitors last year, a 14.2 percent increase on the previous year and is the most visited of all sites in Greece.
“Archaeological sites are open from Monday May 18, the first stage in a progressive re-launch of the country’s cultural foundations,” the culture and sports ministry said in a statement.
Greece is dotted with dozens of temples, stadiums, theatres and citadels from Antiquity, including the Bronze Age Minoan palace of Knossos on Crete, and Olympus, cradle of the Olympic Games.
However not all museums will be open until June 15 under the government’s plan to gradually lift restriction to halt the spread of COVID-19.
With 163 deaths from the virus, Greece started easing the measures this month after a six-week lockdown with an eye to salvaging the vital tourism season.
The country has suffered less from the pandemic than many other European nations and restaurants are due to resume trading from May 25, a week earlier than originally planned.
Athens expects the economy to contract nearly five percent this year, partly due to the loss of tourism income from key markets such as Germany, Britain and the United States.