ATHENS, June 19 (Xinhua) -- The Acropolis Museum here joins museums across the country to welcome visitors this week with prepared staff and necessary guidelines, after being closed for three months due to the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown measures in Greece.
"Restarting the museum's operation for the public will be a challenge, as the infectious disease has not yet disappeared and health-related protective measures will certainly be strict," Dimitrios Pandermalis, president of the Acropolis Museum, said on Thursday at a press briefing.
As the Acropolis is celebrating its 11th anniversary of operation on Saturday, Pandermalis said in an e-mail statement that the museum has taken all the necessary measures for the protection of the health of its visitors, and is ready to carry on its "mission."
Boasting a unique collection of masterpieces, the Acropolis Museum has become a major tourist attraction since it opened on June 20, 2009.
According to figures released Thursday, more than 1.28 million visitors have enjoyed its exhibits over the past year -- from June 2019 to June 2020. Among them were more than 20,000 Chinese visitors.
For 2019, the Museum participated in the loan of exhibits for four major exhibitions organized in Greece and abroad. Among them was the portrait of Alexander the Great, which was presented in the exhibition "The Joint Exhibition of Asian Civilization," at the National Museum of China in Beijing from May until August 2019, Pandermalis said.
Due to the quick spread of the novel coronavirus, visitor arrivals declined significantly in the winter until the museum was forced closed on March 14, he said.
Greece has one of the lowest coronavirus infection rates in Europe. Latest official data showed that until Monday, when Greece reopened its border and some of its airports to tourism, the southeastern European nation has registered a total of 3,134 cases of COVID-19 with 184 deaths.
Tourism is a key economic pillar for Greece. In 2019, 33 million visitors came to Greece, about three times the Greek population. And tourism contributes directly and indirectly about 20 percent of the country's GDP, Nikolina Kosteletou, professor of economics at the University of Athens, has told Xinhua.
The main goal for the museum in the coming years is to enhance its exhibitions and promote collaboration with other museums, Pandermalis said.
The Acropolis Museum is offering visitors half-price entry to celebrate its 11th birthday on Saturday. Enditem
(George Georgakopoulos contributed to the story.)