In the midst of their first heatwave of the year, thousands of Greeks were released on to the Athenian Riviera this weekend to do what beach-goers love to do: swim, lounge and soak up the rays. They were not disappointed.
“Life! Freedom! A breath of fresh air,” enthused Maria, a retired bank worker, relishing the scene with her friend Danae. “Relief,” said Danae, sitting up and raising her arms to the sky. “At long last, a big psychological relief.”
But that freedom is now measured in meters, even if Greece has kept Covid-19 infection and mortality rates unusually low. Maria and Danae lounged on sunbeds at a 10-metre distance from their fellow bathers. Behind them Zissimos Zissos, a town hall employee, guided a drone over the beach on a mission to detect congested danger zones, broadcasting the robotic message “we keep our distance, we respect public health”.
“It shocks people but they do look up and move away,” Zissos smiled, as municipal police and guards wended their way through reed umbrellas, urging beach-goers to respect the rules or risk being fined.
“It’s a venture into the unknown, a different world,” said Giorgos Papanicolaou, the mayor of Glyfada, whose municipality runs the long stretch of public beach south of Athens’ city center. “But it’s gone better than expected. Children are a bit more difficult to control but so far there haven’t been any penalties”.
Read more: The Guardian