Greece to offer 330 million euros to help restaurants and bars open

ATHENS, April 1 (Reuters) - Greece will offer restaurants and bars that have been under lockdown for months around 330 million euros ($390 million) in additional funding to enable them to re-open in the coming weeks, officials said on Thursday.

More than 70,000 restaurants, bars and cafes have been closed since November, when a hard lockdown was imposed to contain the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Industry associations estimate that about one in five may not be able to open ahead of the summer tourist season.

“Our goal is clear... to reopen your businesses as comfortably as possible,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said during a meeting with ministers and sector representatives.

Each business will receive a grant of up to 100,000 euros, under specific criteria, to handle reopening costs, with the total package amounting to 330 million euros, the finance ministry said in a statement.

Government officials said last month that restaurants might open later in April ahead of the planned opening of the tourism sector from mid-May.

The sector has already received 1 billion euros from the state in cheap loans and other grants.

Still recovering from a decade-long debt crisis, Greece has been plunged back into deep recession by the pandemic, and its hopes of a boost from the vital summer tourist season have suffered a blow from rising infections across Europe.

Greek authorities eased some COVID-19 lockdown curbs on Wednesday to relieve peoples’ fatigue with protracted restrictions, allowing small retail shops to reopen. ($1 = 0.8494 euros) (Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas Editing by Alexandra Hudson)