Greek taverns and cafes close in protest against the pandemic

Protesters in the northern city of Thessaloniki placed an empty coffin in front of a government building, while protesters carried black balloons into the southern port of Patras. Brief scuffles broke out at a rally in central Athens when police arrested protesters blocking traffic near the prime minister’s official residence.

Greece is currently reporting its highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases from the pandemic and the highest COVID-19 death rate in six months. The government has reimposed some restrictions that target around a third of the population who are still unvaccinated.

Greek health authorities reported a daily record for new cases, with 8,129 infections recorded in 24 hours. They also reported 80 more deaths related to COVID-19, bringing the total death toll in the country from around 11 million to nearly 17,000.

Government public health advisers have recommended tougher capacity limits for businesses and other infection control measures. Officials are to decide later this week whether to implement the recommendations.

Under the stricter measures, private doctors could be forced to work for the public health service to cover staff shortages.

Giorgos Kavathas, the leader of Greece’s largest small business association, said businesses are seeking tax breaks and rent subsidies from the government.

“We support public health measures, but we also need help,” he told state television. “Let’s not forget that in the last 20 months, some catering businesses have been closed for at least nine months, and others without outdoor customer spaces have been closed for 12 months. The money that has been lost does not will ever be recovered, so clearly we need to have a serious discussion.”

___ Follow Gatopoulos at https://twitter.com/dgatopoulos and Stavrakis at https://twitter.com/TStavrak

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

(Copyright 2021 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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