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Desperate Greek Businesses Want Out of COVID-19 Stranglehold

Αssociated Press

Pedestrian wearing protective face masks walk in the Plaka district of Athens, Friday, March 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS - Closed more than half the previous 12 months in the government’s frantic bid to slow the COVID-19 pandemic, battered Greek businesses  - many nearing going under - are pressing the government to let them open again.

Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis has been trying to balance saving lives against restoring an economy that shrank 8.2 percent in 2020 and keeps pushing back a third lockdown, set to lift March 16.

But still, even with vaccinations underway, the most optimistic scenario, said Kathimerini, is letting retail stores open with limits on customers per square meters for a business’ size and opening restaurants in April, only for outdoor seating.

The government and health officials earlier said vaccinations could lead to some return to normality by November, too late for a real tourism season or for some businesses on the brink.

The decisions will be based on epidemiological data and the government’s advisory panel of doctors and scientists guiding health restrictions and recommendations on the economy too, the lockdown not working enough yet.

The paper said that Mitsotakis’ aides said he hasn’t gone to a strict lockdown because the economy can’t take continued pressure after the state pumped in 17.5 billion euros ($20.79 billion) in 2020 in aid for laid-off workers and their struggling businesses required to close.

The 2021 budget provided another 7.5 billion euros ($8.91 billion) for support measures but has already hit 11.5 billion euros ($13.66 billion) less than a quarter into the new year, the state also losing as much as 1.2 billion euros ($1.43 billion) monthly in lost tax revenues with businesses shuttered.