ATHENS – A long lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus in Greece took a heavy toll in the second quarter of the year, – which doesn't end until June 30- but saw the economy contract a devastating 16 percent.
That was the word from Finance Minister Christos Staikouras who told a radio station on June 24 that the hit was due mostly to a 99 percent fall in tourism with people around the world mostly told to stay home and virtually no international air traffic.
"Right now, it seems that there is no tourism…on the islands," Staikouras said, although ferries – at half capacity – have been operating again and some islands, such as Mykonos, have returned to pre-COVID-19 wild parties and gatherings that health officials fear could bring a return of the virus, people ignoring restrictions.
Before the pandemic hit, the economy was just starting to accelerate a slow recovery from a near decade-long crisis worsened for workers, pensioners and the poor by brutal austerity measures imposed by successive governments.
But a lockdown that began on March 23 closed non-essential businesses and began being gradually lifted only on May 4 but the effect has seen many companies and small firms already go under.
The government also had to pump in 17.5 billion euros ($19.78 billion) in relief measures for workers laid off during the lockdown and to their companies to keep them afloat.
That was in return for three international bailouts of 326 billion euros ($368.46 billion) that ended on Aug. 20, 2018, almost a year before the former anti-business Radical Left SYRIZA government was ousted in July 7, 2019 snap elections.
The winners, the New Democracy Conservatives of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, turned to trying to lure investors to return and the economy had been predicted to grow as much as 2-3 percent before the health disaster hit.
There were fears that tourism, which began in part on June 15 with arrivals from countries with relatively safe records in handling COVID-19 and will resume fully on July 1, could fall as much as 70 percent after a consecutive run of record years.