ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Associations representing restaurants and catering businesses in Greece staged strikes and protests across the country on Tuesday, demanding further financial relief from the government due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Athens’ normally busy traditional restaurants, cafes, bars and taverns have remained closed with chairs overturned on outdoor tables, including in the historic Plaka district in the Greek capital.
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 erupted 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 cases of the pandemic coronavirus 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.
Government public health advisers have recommended tighter capacity limits for businesses and other measures to control infections. Officials are expected 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 head of Greece’s largest small business association, said companies were seeking tax breaks and rent subsidies from the government.
“We support public health measures, but we also need help,” he said on public television. “Let’s not forget that over the past 20 months, restaurant businesses have been closed for at least nine months, and others without outside customer spaces have been closed for 12 months. The money that was lost will never be recovered, so it is clear that we need to have a serious discussion. ”
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