the vital tourism sector in Greece has come to a standstill

Statue of the goddess Athena, above the Academy of Athens, April 1. THANASSIS STAVRAKIS / AP

A stone’s throw from the Panathenaic Stadium and Athens’s largest hospital, Evangelismos, Charilakis Dallas feels very lonely in its regular café-pastry shop.

Since mid-March, all stores, except supermarkets and pharmacies, have been closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which killed 55 people on April 3, with 1,544 people tested positive in Greece. Cafes and restaurants are only allowed to make deliveries and take-out sales.

We are on the lookout for customers. I serve at most ten coffees or cakes per day since the confinement of the population “, sighs Mr. Dallas, who started this family business twenty-five years ago. “But the most important thing is that Greece does not experience a situation as tragic as in Italy, worries the fifties. Our health care system has been plagued by years of budget cuts. The doctors who come to have a coffee tell me that they lack basic equipment, that they work overtime until exhaustion …

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Since the onset of the economic crisis in 2010, the cut in the budget for public hospitals and the flight abroad of more than 18,000 doctors have severely affected this sector. Between 2009 and 2015, public spending on health per capita dropped by 37.7% and more than 20% of intensive care or specialized care units were closed. To cope with the health crisis, the ministry of health announced the hiring of 4,200 doctors and hospital staff, and the number of beds in intensive care rose from 565 to 870.

“Are we going to survive a new crisis? “

Dallas is anxiously following the news and wondering what it will look like the day after the confinement. “We weathered the economic crisis and went through a very difficult period, especially in 2015, with the imposition of capital controls. Are we going to survive a new crisis? “

The government of Conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has announced a series of measures to support businesses and employees: allowance of 800 euros per month for all workers whose contract has not been renewed or who have had to start short-time working ; payment by the state of social security contributions; postponement of the payment of corporate taxes and debts for four months.

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