A man takes part in demonstration during a 24-hour nationwide restaurant strike to protest COVID-19-related fines and higher energy costs, in Athens, Greece, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
ATHENS – Cafes, restaurants and bars in Greece organized strikes and protests across the country Tuesday in protest of government restrictions on the unvaccinated who have to show proof of negative tests at their own cost in order to enter.
Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis has backed away from a pledge to consider mandatory shots even as the COVID-19 pandemic has set record levels and is relying on a failed persuasion campaign.
The new restrictions have seen business fall off drastically for many eateries and even the vaccinated have shunned them in apparent fear of the unvaccinated continuing to spread the Coronavirus.
Restaurateurs and other representatives of the food sector said they will bring a petition to Mitsotakis calling for the measures to be lifted although they did that previously and were rejected.
Protesters in the northern city of Thessaloniki placed an empty coffin outside a government building, while marchers carried black balloons in the southern port of Patras. Brief scuffles broke out at a rally in central Athens when police stopped demonstrators blocking traffic near the prime minister’s official residence.
He has said it wouldn’t be fair for those who are vaccinated to be forced to mix with those who aren’t and to lose privileges gained from being inoculated while rabid anti-vaxxers are continuing the health crisis
Catering professionals say that business has dropped and jobs are at risk since restrictions were introduced requiring customers to show proof of vaccination, recovery from the virus or a negative test.
This also applies to hair salons and retail stores, with the exception of pharmacies, supermarkets and other food stores, sports stadiums and churches which are also exempt, while new restrictions go into effect Nov. 22 limiting how many costumes can be in a store or market.
Greece is currently reporting its highest daily number of confirmed COVID-19 infections since the start of the pandemic and the highest rate of death in six months, prompting the government to re-impose some restrictions that target roughly a third of the country’s population that remains unvaccinated.
Greek health authorities reported a daily record for new cases, with 8,129 infections recorded in 24 hours. They also reported 80 more COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total death toll in the country of about 11 million to nearly 17,000.
Public health advisors to the government are backing tougher capacity restrictions for businesses, and officials are due to decide on whether to implement the proposals later this week.
Giorgos Kavathas, leader of Greece’s largest small business association, said demands from the government included tax breaks and rent subsidies.
“We support the public health measures but we also need assistance,” he told state run television. “Let’s not forget that in the last 20 months, catering businesses were closed for at least nine and others without outdoor customer spaces were closed for 12 months. The money that was lost will never be regained so clearly we need to have a serious discussion.”
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)
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