Crowds flock to the beach as heatwave hits Greece

Beachgoers in Greece try to cool down as temperatures approach 40 degrees Celsius.

Crowds flock to the beach as heatwave hits southeast Europe
Beachgoers in Greece and Israel try to cool down as temperatures approach 40 degrees Celsius [EPA]

Greece has reopened organised public beaches under strict physical distancing measures as the country experiences the worst May heatwave in some 50 years.

The opening of some 500 organised beaches, where umbrellas and lounge chairs are available for hire, came days after the lifting of the coronavirus-related restrictions on free public beaches.

Temperatures were running 10 degrees Celsius (18 Fahrenheit) above average on Saturday, with a high of 36C (97F). 

Easing beach restrictions is also seen as key to salvaging Greece’s vital tourism industry over the summer in a country predicted to have the worst recession in the European Union as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The government issued strict guidelines for beach operation, with businesses facing fines of up 20,000 euros ($21,650) and a three-month closure for violations. 

While swimming and the usage of sun loungers were permitted, group sports were forbidden and canteens remained closed.

The number of beachgoers must also be recorded and not exceed 40 people per 1,000 square metres (10,600 sq feet); the distance between sun umbrellas has been set at four metres (13 feet); and each umbrella may have up to two sunbeds, except for families with minors.

Also, the minimum distance between two sunbeds from different beach umbrellas must be 1.5 metres (five feet).

Further east in Israel, Tel Aviv’s beaches were also packed on Saturday morning as temperatures hit 38C (100F) following a partial opening earlier in the week. The May average there is 25C (77F).

Authorities are allowing beaches to open for sea sports such as surfing but the Israeli Ministry of Health instructed beachgoers not to stay for longer periods. A decision on easing the restrictions further will be made in the coming days.

The heatwave is expected to last through the best part of next week with temperatures possibly getting as high as 43C (110F) in the south of the country.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies