Greece’s tavernas, coffee shops close for pandemic protest

Associations representing restaurants and catering businesses in Greece staged strikes and protests across the country Tuesday, pleading with the government to provide additional financial assistance in light of the escalating coronavirus pandemic.

In Athens, normally bustling restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and traditional tavernas remained closed, with chairs flipped onto outdoor tables, including in the historic Plaka district.

Protesters in the northern city of Thessaloniki placed an empty coffin in front of a government building, while marchers in the southern port of Patras carried black balloons. When police stopped demonstrators blocking traffic near the prime minister’s official residence, brief scuffles erupted at a rally in central Athens.

Greece is currently reporting the pandemic’s highest confirmed coronavirus cases and the highest COVID-19 mortality rate in six months. The government reinstated several restrictions aimed at the approximately one-third of the population that is still unvaccinated.

Greek health officials reported a daily record for new cases, with 8,129 infections reported in a 24-hour period. Additionally, they reported 80 additional COVID-19 deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll from approximately 11 million to nearly 17,000.

The government’s public health advisors have recommended that businesses be limited in their capacity and that additional infection control measures be implemented. Officials are expected to make a decision on whether to implement the recommendations later this week.

Private doctors may be required to work for the public health service as part of the tougher measures to address staff shortages.

Giorgos Kavathas, president of Greece’s largest small business association, stated that businesses are requesting government tax breaks and rent subsidies.

“While we support public health initiatives, we also require assistance,” he told state television. “Let us not forget that in the last two decades, at least nine catering businesses have closed, while others without outdoor customer spaces have closed for 12 months. The money that was lost will never be recovered, and thus a serious discussion is required.”

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