ATHENS – Closed for 17 weeks during two lockdowns in 2020 aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, and extending into Jan. 7, 2021, battered Greek businesses are hoping the New Democracy government will let them open their doors again.
Most of the retail sector, along with restaurants, taverns and bars, was closed on Nov. 7 and the lockdown – more lenient than a first for 10 weeks in the spring – was extended because it didn’t work, so many people not following health protocols.
Not wearing masks or keeping safe social distances from each other saw cases spike to more than 3,000 a day before the government got a little tougher, which has seen the numbers reduced but not enough to let any easing until January.
Government officials are meeting with its panel of scientists, doctors and epidemiological specialists for guidance on when retail stores can open their doors and allow customers in, many relying for now on a click-and-collect scheme which lets people order online and make an appointment for pickup at the business.
Government spokesman Stelios Petsas told SKAI radio that the panel will meet again in the days leading up to Jan. 7 to make a recommendation based on the data and as there is eagerness to keep the faltering economy afloat.
Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis told SKAI TV that some measures might be relaxed if the pandemic can be controlled but wasn’t willing to say the lockdown wouldn’t be extended again, which could spell the end for some businesses.
He said that he will present a proposal based on his ministry’s reopening plan and the latest statistics regarding the spread of COVID-19 and ask the panel for advice on a reopening schedule for retail stores.
Georgiadis clarified on Parapolitika radio station that the click-and-collect system is here to stay and will continue even after measures against the pandemic are lifted, giving people an option for shopping along with home delivery.
Market estimates on retail turnover this festive season point to reduction of about 60 percent compared to 2019, as online commerce and the click-and-collect method have only partially substituted the normal operation of stores, said Kathimerini.
According to projections by retailers, holiday turnover this year will come to about 1.5 billion euros ($1.84 billion,) down from about 3.5 billion euros ($4.3 billion) over Christmas 2019.
Before a near decade-long economic crisis began in 2010, leading to three international bailouts of 326 billion euros ($400.26 billion) and brutal austerity measures, the holiday season was a 6-billion-euro bonanza for Greek businesses.