Announcement by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center
Up until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) was one of Greece’s greatest success stories, and emerged as the most beloved destination among residents and visitors of Attica alike. In 2019, 6.3 million people visited the Center, a number far in excess of even the most optimistic estimates before its delivery to the Greek State. Indicatively, there were 530,000 visitors in May 2019, and 642,000 in June.
In the present time, however, the high number of potential visitors, with the inevitable overcrowding that it entails, poses a serious threat as they could act as a hotbed for transmission of the virus. Especially challenging is the time interval between 18:00 and 20:00, during which, at the weekends of June 2019, the rate of visitor arrivals exceeded 2,000 an hour.
As we have steadfastly done since the outbreak of the pandemic, we consider the protection of the health of the public and of our employees as our top priority. We have both the knowledge and experience to serve that purpose in the most effective way possible. We were among the first, if not indeed the first, organization in Greece to place an order for Personal Protective Equipment for our staff (masks, disposable gloves, full-body suits and antiseptics), on January 29, just 5 days after the first confirmed case in Europe. We received the equipment in mid-February and, ever since the first day of the virus’s arrival in Greece, our employees have benefitted from a high level of protection, at any time they are required to be physically present at the SNFCC. We have implemented fastidiously all measures of protection (i.e. frequent disinfection of work areas and areas of public use) and social distancing, in accordance with the regulations of the National Public Health Organization.
As the Stavros Niarchos Park and our outdoor spaces in general reopen we are committed to protecting the health of our visitors with the same care and thoroughness.
The SNFCC will remain open and accessible to everyone, but under certain rules and – inevitably – with restrictions on visitor numbers. At the same time, we need to implement regulations that will prevent overcrowding within both the Park and our other open-air spaces, and the entrance and exit gates.
The only way to achieve that, as is the case in venues with high visitor numbers both in Greece and abroad, is to limit access to visitors who have registered in advance on an online platform. Registrations will be checked at three gates/check points, and access will not be allowed without such registration, even in the event that there are “empty slots” on the schedule at the time. In this way there will be no motive for queueing in expectation at the gate which could lead to uncontrollable overcrowding.
Both the Park itself and the entry and exit gates will be supervised by SNFCC staff and security guards, to discourage overcrowding.
The only exemptions from the advance registration requirement will be persons aged 65+, Persons with Disabilities, and pregnant women, for whom entry will be free upon verification, if necessary, of their age, Disability card, etc. We are especially keen to avoid any undue delays in entering the Centre for people belonging to these groups.
On the face of it, offering free entry to those aged 65+ may be taken as encouraging a vulnerable group to not remain at home but, instead, risk exposure to the virus. In reality, however, we believe that the exact opposite is true. The 65+ population of the area and, of course, in general, are currently exposed to much greater danger, on account of having to take their outings on non-organized sites (the seashore, town squares, etc), where the risk of overcrowding is much higher than in the Stavros Niarchos Park, with its 21 hectares, of which 5 are designed for walk and rest, and where there will be surveillance to prevent instances of “localized” overcrowding.
Our view is based on and supported by the results of a Visitor Survey we conducted in December 2019.
Our decision to provide free entry to the 65+ group is, essentially, an offer to local residents aged 65 and over.
Special provisions will be made for tourists visiting the SNFCC. The SNFCC is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Athens, and we are committed to doing our utmost to contribute to the recovery of tourism in our city.
We are in close contact with the General Secretariat for Civil Protection, as well as the Ministry of Health, for the finalization of protection protocols.
The Stavros Niarchos Park and other outdoor spaces of the SNFCC will re-open in the coming week. Details on the advance registration system, the date and time of the first registrations, entry points etc., will be posted on our website well in advance of our re-opening.
It is more than obvious that these restrictions entail a serious loss of revenue for the SNFCC. In addition, employing dedicated staff for surveillance and implementation of measures involves significant costs. For the SNFCC, however, protecting the health of its visitors is the highest and most pressing priority.
In almost four years of operation, the public has given us top ratings for the quality of visitor experience we have provided, according to the results of a survey among visitors and the general public. Today, we aim to combine that exemplary experience of our visitors with the maximum possible protection of their health.
We are optimistic and impatiently expect that the continued improvement of public health in Greece will allow us to relax and even lift the restrictions entirely so as to give the public, once again, the same welcome they enjoyed a few months ago.