ΑΤΗΕΝΣS -- With discipline, precautions and careful observance of protection measures, Greece will be able to ensure there is no backtracking in the easing of pandemic restrictions, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Tuesday in his address to the online conference of the Hellenic Confederation of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ESEE), held to mark 20 years of the Annual Exhibition of Hellenic Trade.
"To the extent that we take precautions, we will be able to work. To the extent that we show discipline, we will be able to move about. So that whatever opens does not close again," he said.
Noting that the pandemic had affected the exhibition, along with everything else, Mitsotakis said that the prospect of an end to the ordeal before the summer was also apparent, citing the vaccine rollout and self-testing at home as new tools in this direction.
"The gradual reopening of retail trade since yesterday is encouraging," he added.
The prime minister referred to the state support for businesses that will not reopen in April, including shops in the three worst-affected regions and the hospitality sector. He noted, however, that responsibility was a two-way affair and that the state cannot be criticised for both allowing activities and preventing them, for both lack of controls and authoritarianism when it carries them out.
"Social groups must not undermine each other because the danger is the same for all," he pointed out, adding that health and the economy were in the hands of society and that this called for personal responsibility.
"It is in your hands also, in other words the representatives of 17 federations, 325 trade associations and 230,000 businesses with more than 700,000 employees. In other words, it is a shared exercise of responsibility and mature behaviour," he added.
Mitsotakis said that Greece had managed to contain the recession to 8.2 pct in 2020, and even though 78 pct of commercial enterprises saw their turnover falling, another 19,000 new jobs were added to the sector. "This is proof of the flexibility of people, who used new paths, such as electronic trade. But also of the mobilisation of the state, which promptly deployed a broad net of measures to protect workers and support businesses," he said.
He pointed out that 600,000 businesses and freelance professionals have been financed with 7.3 billion euros, as well as for discounted rent and postponed payment of debts, in addition to other measures supporting employees.
The prime minister ended his message by referring to the National Recovery and Resilience Plan 'Greece 2.0', which he said will mobilise 57 billion euros for 170 actions that focused mainly on small and medium-sized enterprises and will accelerate their digital transformation and help them meet the demands of the cyclical economy and green growth.