Greece pledges more support for businesses as shops reopen

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Greece will provide more financial aid to businesses hit by coronavirus restrictions in April, the finance minister said on Monday, as shops reopened despite surging case numbers that have put health services under severe strain.

Last week the government announced the easing of some restrictions to relieve widespread lockdown fatigue, allowing small retail shops selling non-essential goods to reopen, under so-called click-away and click-in-shopping modes.

Under the rules, consumers will need to make appointments and comply with a three-hour limit for shopping and retailers cannot allow more than one customer per 25 square metres.

The measure excludes shopping malls and department stores in the Athens area which will remain closed and in three regions with severe infection levels, including the major northern city of Thessaloniki, shops will remain closed.

Greece handled the first wave of the pandemic last year better than many other countries in Europe but its health services, weakened by a decade of financial crisis, have come under heavy pressure as case numbers have surged this year.

Lockdown measures imposed in November have caused growing discontent and left many businesses struggling to survive but Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said Greece’s ability to borrow on financial markets would enable the government to help.

The 130 million euro ($150 million) package would help around 100,000 businesses, including some 10,800 retailers, with financial assistance ranging from 1,000-4,000 euros, depending on the number of workers employed, Staikouras said.

“We are making use of funds raised from markets in the last months to support businesses and households,” he said.

On Sunday Greece reported 1,955 new COVID-19 infections and 78 related deaths, bringing total infections to 275,414 and COVID-related deaths to 8,380.

Main Photo: People shop under strict restrictions on the first day of retail stores re-opening, in Athens, Greece, 05 April 2021. The stores reopened after several weeks of closure due to restrictions against the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. EPA-EFE/ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU

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