Greek cafes still closed by COVID-19 measures
AP PHOTOS: Greek cafes still closed by COVID-19 measures
ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Silence has replaced the muffled buzz of conversation and the clinking of glasses that pervaded cafe terraces across Athens. Their chairs and tables, once occupied all day and deep into the night, are stacked in empty stacks, some secured with chains.
When coronavirus infections rose again in Greece in the fall, the government imposed a second lockdown. Retail stores, bars, restaurants and cafes were once again closed, forced to close in early November to prevent the insidious spread of the virus.
Retail stores open briefly over the Christmas holidays, with social distancing measures in place, and from Monday will be allowed to reopen to customers by appointment. But restaurants, bars and cafes, which by nature bring groups of people tightly together, will enter their sixth month of closure except for take-out or delivery.
While government grants such as rent coverage, loans, tax cuts, and employee paid vacation programs are available, the formula hasn’t worked for all business owners.
Vassilis Panteris, co-owner of an all-day bar that offers coffee, food and drink in a neighborhood in central Athens, closed at the start of Greece’s second lockdown on November 7 and did not hasn’t opened since.
The main reason, he said, was that partners feared that they would not be able to earn enough money from deliveries to cover running costs, even with fewer employees. They were also concerned that some customers coming to pick up coffee, food or take-out drinks would not adhere to social distancing and other government regulations, exposing the cafe to heavy fines.
Panteris said the company has lost about 30,000 euros ($ 35,000) since the start of the pandemic. Business owners are hoping for more government support to retain employees and keep their establishments alive. Greece slipped into recession last year due to the pandemic and accompanying lockdown measures.
“It’s hard to make predictions about the course of business in such a volatile environment,” Panteris said.
Since the start of the pandemic, Greece has reported more than 263,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and more than 8,000 deaths linked to the virus. The country of about 11 million people has so far administered 1.7 million doses of the vaccine, with more than 600,000 people fully vaccinated with two injections.