UPDATE 1-Greece aims to reopen restaurants next month - state minister

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ATHENS, April 21 (Reuters) - Greece aims to reopen restaurants early next month, state minister George Gerapetritis said on Wednesday, as the country is desperate for more economic sectors to resume operations ahead of its vital summer tourist season.

Greece, which coped relatively well during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, was forced to tighten restrictions late last year to combat a surge in cases, with hospitals around Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki struggling to cope.

More than half of all new cases each day are reported in that region.

"Our intention is to have a coordinated opening of the restaurants after Easter," the minister told state television ERT, adding that customers would be allowed to dine outdoors.

Greek Orthodox Easter falls on May 2.

The government began a massive distribution of free home testing kits this month to reopen senior high schools and some services as it is keen to get the situation sufficiently under control before the start of the tourist season on May 14.

Health authorities on Tuesday reported 3,789 daily cases of COVID-19 and 87 deaths. Total cases and deaths have reached 320,629 and 9,627 respectively. (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by David Clarke)