Greece reopens cafes, restaurants as summer season nears

A waitress wearing a protective facemask and plastic gloves serves coffee at a cafe in central Athens on May 25, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 26 May 2020

Greece reopens cafes, restaurants as summer season nears

  • Travel to all the Greek islands was also restored on Monday

ATHENS: Greece allowed cafes and restaurants to reopen on Monday as part of a gradual lifting of its coronavirus restrictions to reboot its tourism-dependent economy and help draw in foreign visitors ahead of the summer season.

The country, which has emerged from a decade-long financial crisis in the last couple of years, is relying on tourism to help it recover from a nationwide lockdown that brought its economy to a near standstill.

With tables set far apart and waitresses wearing masks, restaurants served the many Greeks keen to get out and enjoy food and a cup of coffee again after roughly two months of confinement.

“We have missed this, this is psychological therapy for us, so of course it’s important, very, very important,” said Katerina Stravaridi from a cafe in Athens.

So far, the country has managed to contain the spread of COVID-19 infections to just 2,878 cases and 171 deaths — low numbers compared with elsewhere in the EU — mainly by imposing an early nationwide lockdown in March.

Athens mayor Kostas Bakoyannis said reopening the food services sector is a prelude for the summer holiday season.

“Greece is open and safe. It’s a destination where one can enjoy one’s holiday while at the same time securing one’s health,” he said.

Travel to all the Greek islands was also restored on Monday, with passenger ferries operating at 50 percent of their capacity, as the country prepares to reopen year-round hotels on June 1.

Seasonal hotels will be open from June 15, when some direct international flights from the Athens International Airport will also resume.


Saudi Arabia’s 6-point plan to jumpstart global economy

Updated 07 July 2020

Saudi Arabia’s 6-point plan to jumpstart global economy

  • Policy recommendations to G20 aim to counter effects of pandemic

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia, in its capacity as president of the G20 group of nations, has unveiled a six-point business plan to jump start the global economy out of the recession brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yousef Al-Benyan, the chairman of the B20 business group within the G20, told a webinar from Riyadh that the response to the pandemic -— including the injection of $5 trillion into the global economy — had been “reassuring.”

But he warned that the leading economies of the world had to continue to work together to mitigate the effects of global lockdowns and to address the possibility of a “second wave” of the disease.

“Cooperation and collaboration between governments, global governance institutions and businesses is vital for an effective and timely resolution of this multi-dimensional contagion transcending borders,” Al-Benyan said.

“The B20 is strongly of the view there is no alternative to global cooperation, collaboration and consensus to tide over a multi-dimensional and systemic crisis,” he added.

The six-point plan, contained in a special report to the G20 leadership with input from 750 global business leaders, sets out a series of policy recommendations to counter the effects of the disease which threaten to spark the deepest economic recession in nearly a century.

The document advocates policies to build health resilience, safeguard human capital, and prevent financial instability.

It also promotes measures to free up global supply chains, revive productive economic sectors, and digitize the world economy “responsibly and inclusively.”

In a media question-and-answer session to launch the report, Al-Benyan said that among the top priorities for business leaders were the search for a vaccine against the virus that has killed more than half-a-million people around the world, and the need to reopen global trade routes slammed shut by economic lockdowns.

He said that the G20 response had been speedy and proactive, especially in comparison with the global financial crisis of 2009, but he said that more needed to be done, especially to face the possibility that the disease might surge again. “Now is not the time to celebrate,” he warned.

“Multilateral institutions and mechanisms must be positively leveraged by governments to serve their societies and must be enhanced wherever necessary during and after the pandemic,” he said, highlighting the role of the World Health Organization, the UN and the International Monetary Fund, which have come under attack from some world leaders during the pandemic.

Al-Benyan said that policy responses to the pandemic had been “designed according to each country’s requirements.”

Separately, the governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority said that it was “too early” to say if the Kingdom’s economy would experience a sharp “V-shape” recovery from pandemic recession.