No cafes, no tourists: Virus empties streets of old Athens

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It’s been a while since visitors to Greece sought out souvenirs in Athens’ oldest neighbourhood.

The winding streets of Plaka, laid out long before the city imported a grid system, are lined with closed stores behind aluminium shutters. The coronavirus pandemic has kept tourists away from the historic city centre 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.

A man with an umbrella walks in the rain on Pnyx hill in front the ancient Acropolis hill, with the ruins of the fifth century BC Parthenon temple, in Athens, on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

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 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 many other businesses considered 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% during the first 10 months of 2020 compared to a year earlier. Spending sank 77%, according to central bank data released this week.

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

Sourced By: Associated Press

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