No cafes, no tourists: Coronavirus empties roads of old Athens – shuttle



It’s been a while since visitors to Greece sought out souvenirs in Athens’ oldest neighbourhood. The winding roads of Plaka, laid out long before the city imported a grid system, are lined with closed stores at the back of aluminum shutters. The coronavirus pandemic has kept tourists absent from the historic city center that forms a semi-circle around the Acropolis, and the area remained unusually devoid of pedestrians and motorists before Christmas.

In their absence, ancient monuments are a little easier to make out from a distance, fewer horns are sounding in traffic and homeless cats parked in front of cafes are a little less aloof.

Greece so far has imposed two nationwide lockdowns since the start of the pandemic. The first, in the spring, kept the country’s infection rates low. Authorities ordered the second one in response to a rapid post-summer rise in reported cases and as of Christmas Eve has seen 4,4,57 confirmed virus-related deaths.

The restrictions have closed bars, restaurants, coffee shops and plenty of other businesses regarded as non-essential but which make up a large slice of Greece’s tourism-dependent economy.

The number of visitors traveling to the country plummeted 76.1 per cent all the way through the first 10 months of 2020 in comparison to a year earlier. Spending sank 77 per cent, according to central bank data released this week.

Greece is expected to see a 10.5 per cent contraction of its gross domestic product this year in comparison to the forecasted EU average of 7.4 per cent, while its debt-to-GDP ratio is set to surge to a staggering 208.9 per cent.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed. )

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