Retail stores – except for department stores and malls – across most of Greece were allowed to reopen on Monday despite an ongoing surge in COVID-19 infections, as the country battled to emerge from a deep recession.
Stores in greater Athens opened for pick-up services only but remain closed in Greece’s second and third largest cities, Thessaloniki and Patras, due to fears of a more serious spike in infections.
Visits to retail shops can only take place by appointment and after sending a text message to a special phone number.
There is a three-hour window for completing purchases and only one non-essential shopping trip per day is permitted.
Lockdown measures have been in force since early November, although shops opened briefly around the Christmas holiday season. The prolonged closures piled pressure on the economy.
Greek economic output shrank by 8.2% in 2020 while the national debt as a percentage of gross domestic product shot over 200%.
About 16% of the country’s residents have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccination but infection rates continue to rise.
Health authorities on Sunday reported over 1,900 new confirmed infections over the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 275,414 cases.
Another 78 deaths were recorded, with the overall death toll at 8,380.
Greece has a population of 10.5 million.
The center-right government has pinned its reopening policy on the mass distribution of test kits that will be provided for free on a weekly basis to help re-open schools – expected later this month – and the country’s vital tourism industry in mid-May.