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Beaches Reopening, Greece Girds for Worst May Heatwave in 50 Years

ATHENS – Just as Greece is further relaxing a lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus and letting organized public and private beaches open – with social distancing requirements – the country will be blanketed with smothering heat.

Temperatures could hit or surpass 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in many areas, a National Observatory of Athens (NOA) scientist said, which would make it the worst heatwave in May in a half century.

University of Crete Professor Nikos Michalopoulos, also head of the NOA’s Institute for Research and Sustainable Development, told the state-run broadcaster ERT  the last time Greece saw temperatures reach the 40C mark in May was 2017.

But he said a sustained heat wave this month could bring records and there are worries the temperature could even soar past 41 degrees Celsius, (105.8 degrees Fahrenheit) the highest in 150 years.

The NOA, he said, has the oldest weather station in Greece at its historic facility in the central Athens district of Thiseio, where “data for the last 150 years… show that the highest temperatures during May were recorded in the last 10 days of the month and never surpassed 37 degrees Celsius.”

Letting beaches open will be an “important test” which Greece “must pass successfully” in its efforts to restart tourism, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said in a briefing about the lockdown's further pullback.

“Everyone is watching Greece because, so far, it has shown an exemplary response to the pandemic. Now we are called upon to demonstrate that, with rules and maturity, we can enjoy the beauty of our country safely during this summer,” he said.

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