Woman wearing protective face mask walk in Monastiraki, district of Athens, on Tuesday, March 9, 2021.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
ATHENS — Greece's prime minister has outlined a new 2.5 billion-euro ($3 billion) package of relief measures for businesses and workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic and related lockdowns.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Thursday the new stimulus package would provide relief for more than 500,000 businesses and freelancers, and millions of workers. The country has been under various forms of lockdown restrictions since early November, with retail businesses and restaurants shut and strict limits imposed on movement outside the home.
The new package brings the total funds provided for pandemic relief measures to 11.6 billion euros so far in 2021, Mitsotakis said, adding that 24 billion euros were spent on supporting businesses and workers in 2020.
Greece's economy saw an estimated 8.2% contraction in 2020, smaller than the initially projected 10.5%.
"Our aim is now for the productive sector to remain on its feet until the end of the ordeal," Mitsotakis said.
The new measures include a new round of interest-free loans for businesses suffering lower turnover in the first quarter of the year, and the possibility in some cases for up to 50% of these loans not being repaid and therefore turning into subsidies.
"From the first moment that the pandemic struck, I had stressed that the priority of health must go hand in hand with shielding the economy. That is why, in addition to the titanic effort to strengthen the national health system in 2020, 24 billion euros were allocated to support employees and businesses. And today another 2.5 billion are being mobilised, raising the relevant funds in 2021 to 11.6 billion," the prime minister underlined.
"In defiance of irresponsible doom-mongering, all the evidence shows that the national economy has held up. Despite the unprecedented difficulties, we had very few shutterings. The country had the second best performance in Europe in getting unemployment under control. And the recession was limited to 8.2 pct, counter to the gloomy forecasts of the opposition. Our goal now is for the people in production to stay on their feet until the end of the ordeal. Thus making more confident the first steps of the day after.
"Today, I can announce a new stimulus package that will provide relief to more than 500,000 businesses, freelancers and millions of workers."
A rent exemption for affected businesses is also extended for March, while credit is extended for tax and social security contributions. Loan repayment assistance will be provided.
The measures, Mitsotakis said, "create the path for our safe transition to the post-coronavirus era."
Greece has seen a surge of coronavirus infections and deaths in recent months, with its hospitals coming under increasing strain, particularly in the wider Athens region. As of Wednesday night, the country of about 11 million people had registered just over 212,000 total coronavirus cases and 6,886 deaths since the start of the pandemic. So far nearly 1.2 million vaccine doses have been administered, with more than 383,000 people fully vaccinated with both doses.
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SKOPJE, North Macedonia — German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has urged North Macedonia to acknowledge the presence of an ethnic Bulgarian minority in the country, amid other actions required to speed up its European Union accession process.
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