ATHENS – With fingers crossed and checking epidemiological data daily, Greece’s New Democracy government is aiming at lifting a third COVID-1 lockdown to let schools and retail open by the end of March and tourism to resume in May, for Easter, and open the door for the critical summer season.
But it depends on whether an accelerated vaccination program and tougher measures applied to the lockdown, with enforcement picking up, begin to show results by then, said government spokesman Aristotelia Peloni.
She told reporters that outdoor dining for restaurants, taverns and bars could also begin in April in a bid to save many from going bust, the news agency Reuters said, adding that the big goal is to save the critical tourism sector.
That brings in as much as 18-20 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 168.18 billion euros ($200.3 billion) and had been on a run of consecutive record years before the pandemic hit in 2020.
Greece’s Finance Minister Christos Staikouras told a Greek radio station the plan now is for reopening parts of the economy on March 22.
“Two weeks of lockdown accounted for public spending and lost taxes of 1.2 billion euros ($1.43 billion), including 520 million euros ($619.39 million) from retailers,” he said.
As of March 8 there were 6,758 COVID-19 deaths and cases still spiraling, leading the government to extend until at least March 16 a third lockdown that began more than four months earlier, on Nov. 7, 2020.
“We still have tough days ahead of us. But we are running the last mile in this marathon race,” she said, hopes that life could return to near-normal by November, although too late for thousands of businesses that won’t survive.