No cafes, no tourists: COVID-19 is emptying the streets of old Athens

Visitors to Greece have been looking for souvenirs in Athens’ oldest neighborhood for some time. The winding streets of Plaka, which were laid out long before a grid system was imported through the city, are lined with shops that are closed behind aluminum shutters. The coronavirus pandemic has driven tourists from the historic city center, which forms a semicircle around the Acropolis, and the area was unusually free of pedestrians and motorists before Christmas. In their absence, ancient monuments are a little easier to see from a distance, fewer horns sound in traffic, and the homeless cats parked in front of cafes are a little less far away. Greece has imposed two bans across the country since the pandemic began. The first in the spring kept the country’s infection rates low. Authorities ordered the second in response to a rapid surge in reported cases after the summer, and as of Christmas Eve, 4,457 virus deaths were confirmed.

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