ATHENS: Restaurants and cafes across Greece remained closed on Tuesday while a demonstration was held in Athens demanding further state support under the new COVID-19 restrictions introduced by the government this autumn to tackle the latest surge in infection rates.
The restrictions have drastically reduced the revenues of thousands of businesses and further state support is urgently needed, the Panhellenic Federation of Restaurants and Related Professions (POESE) said in a press release. The POESE has called for a 24-hour strike.
“Catering stays closed throughout Greece,” read banners on the closed doors of restaurants and cafes.
The protesters demanded a reduction of value-added tax (VAT) rates from 24 or 13 percent to six percent, as well as rent subsidies, exemptions from municipal taxes and other measures to ease the pressure on businesses, avoid closures and the loss of thousands of jobs.
“We are here to unite our voice with other small professionals to claim substantial measures for our health and our income,” labor union activist Iro Genetzaki told Xinhua during the protest.
Under the latest set of measures in effect since Nov. 9, in order to be served at cafes and restaurants, either indoors or outdoors, customers are obliged to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or of recovery from the virus.
Unvaccinated individuals must present a recent negative rapid or PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test to be allowed to enter retail shops, hair salons, public services or banks.
Claims that the government has failed to support the real economy, and in particular catering, are unfair, Adonis Georgiadis, minister of development and investments, told the local Open TV channel on Tuesday, adding that the state has provided as much aid as possible to all professionals since the start of the pandemic.
Protesters should be angry with the unvaccinated, who do not help with their stance to end the pandemic, he said.
To date, some 6.4 million people in Greece have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Since the announcement of the new restrictions, about 200,000 appointments for a first vaccine dose have been made.
Meanwhile, the number of new coronavirus cases continues to hit record highs in Greece, exceeding 7,000 per day, putting a lot of pressure on hospitals and staff. According to the Health Ministry, on average nine out of ten of those hospitalized are unvaccinated.
In a public statement issued on Tuesday, Health Minister Thanos Plevris called on the country’s doctors working in private clinics to volunteer their services in state-run public hospitals, else the authorities would be forced to assign them as an order.