Greece reopens shops despite high infection rate

Customers must pre-book appointments before visiting shops, and up to 20 people will be allowed inside at a time.

Greece Flag. Picture: Pixabay.com

ATHENS - Greece on Monday relaxed a nationwide lockdown by opening most retail shops despite a steady level of COVID-19 infections and double-digit fatalities.

By allowing people to "decompress" outside their homes as the weather improves, the government hopes to also stem damage to the economy that has also taken a major revenue blow from reduced tourism.

Customers must pre-book appointments before visiting shops, and up to 20 people will be allowed inside at a time.

Monday's reopening does not affect department stores and malls, whose operation will be re-evaluated later in April.

Restrictions on retail also remain in place in areas around Thessaloniki and Patras, Greece's largest cities after Athens, because of spiking infections.

Greece has so far registered more than 275,000 coronavirus cases and over 8,300 deaths since the start of the pandemic, including nearly 150 over the weekend.

Some 750 people are in intensive care.

A firm backer of European vaccine passports, Greece is hoping to kickstart its tourism season from mid-May onwards to claw back some badly needed revenue.

Greece expects to spend some $14 billion this year to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus on its economy, on top of 24 billion euros spent in 2020.

The Greek budget forecasts economic growth of 4.8 percent, scaled back from an earlier 7.5-percent estimate owing to the ongoing lockdown, imposed in November.

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