As of 16 March 2021, Greece with a population of about 11 million people, had registered 223,789 cases according to the National Public Health Organisation and 7,196 deaths. The country has been under various forms of lockdown restrictions since early November, with retail businesses and restaurants shut and strict limits imposed on movement outside the home. Greek authorities have reimposed a lockdown continuing until further notice to combat the spread of COVID-19 and tightened restrictions for Athens, Thessaloniki and other ‘deep red’ areas such as movement restrictions, mandatory seven day quarantine for travellers arriving from abroad, an expanded nighttime and weekend curfew, suspension of many business and entertainment operations, prohibition of gatherings, restrictions of restaurant operations to delivery/carry-out only, and restrictions on travel between regions in Greece.
Masks are required everywhere, indoors and outdoors while all schools are closed until 29 March. A nighttime curfew is in effect from 21:00 to 05:00 throughout the country. As of 4 March 2021, the weekend curfew is expanded in Athens, Thessaloniki and other high COVID areas, in effect from 19:00 to 05:00. The Greek Ministry of Health has developed a priority system for COVID-19 vaccination and system for appointments, and so far, nearly 1.2 million vaccine doses have been administered, with more than 383,000 people fully vaccinated with both doses. The current phase of vaccination is for individuals age 75 and above, as well as for individuals age 60-65, according to announcements by the National Public Health Organisation.
Greece’s prime minister has outlined a new €2.5 billion ($3 billion) package of relief measures for businesses and workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic and related lockdowns. The new stimulus package is set to provide relief for more than 500,000 businesses and freelancers, and millions of workers and brings the total funds provided for pandemic relief measures to €11.6 billion so far in 2021. The new measures include a new round of interest-free loans for businesses suffering lower turnover in the first quarter of the year, and the possibility in some cases for up to 50% of these loans not being repaid and therefore turning into subsidies. A rent exemption for affected businesses is also extended for March, while credit is extended for tax and social security contributions.
Following the click away shopping period between 13 December and 7 January, the Greek authorities have re-imposed a lockdown through to 11 January 2021 to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Authorities announced 24-hour movement restrictions, mandatory 3 day quarantine for travellers arriving from abroad, an expanded nighttime curfew from 21.00 to 5.00, suspension of many business and entertainment operations, prohibition of gatherings, restrictions of restaurant operations to delivery/carry-out only, and restrictions on travel between regions in Greece.
Masks are required everywhere, indoors and outdoors. All travellers entering Greece are now required to present a negative molecular test result (PCR test) for COVID-19, performed up to 72 hours before their entry to Greece. Greece will currently only allow EU citizens, EU residents, and residents of certain other specific countries to enter. All visitors from air, land or sea, will be subject to random tests upon arrival. Upon being tested, travellers move to their final destination. In the event of a positive result, they will be contacted and placed on 14-day quarantine, with expenses covered by the Greek state.
Nursery and grade schools will be re-opening on Monday 11 January while a decision to re-open secondary schools and tertiary education will be reached following assessment of epidemiological data next week. Until then, classes will be held online starting 8 January. In the last 24 hours, Greece recorded 816 new COVID-19 cases and 48 deaths.
In general, travel outside the home should be avoided, but is permitted for work and for the following reasons between the hours of 5.00 and 21.00:
- For health reasons;
- To buy essential supplies if delivery is not possible in time;
- Essential banking or urgent appointments for public services (e.g. electricity);
- To help people in need. Transfer to/from workplace of a spouse or first-degree relative. Transfer of a minor to/from school (with a certificate from the school);
- Attending a ceremony (e.g. funeral). Travel to exercise visitation rights;
- Movements near one’s residence for physical exercise, or care of pets or strays.
In efforts to keep businesses above water and to provide support to employees out of work due to a new tougher round of COVID-19 restrictions, the Greek Government said it would be releasing a new relief package for January. Made up of 7 measures aimed at stimulating the market, the Government announced new support schemes for small businesses enabling lending, NSRF programs backing retail and catering services providers, and rent reductions for affected companies. More specifically the January measures are:
- businesses that were forced to remain closed due to government orders will not be required to pay rent in January, at the same time previous rental reduction measures continue to apply for certain categories;
- the Government will be accepting applications for inclusion in the 5th round of aid in the form of ‘repayable advance’ - an irrevocable, tax-free amount that cannot be offset against any debt;
- employees on furlough in January are entitled to a €534 subsidy, while telework has been extended until 31 January;
- some 100,000 professionals (lawyers, engineers, dentists, veterinarians, accountants, economists, notaries etc.) will be entitled to a €400 subsidy to be paid by the end of January;
- F&B services providers, including restaurants and bars, wishing to purchase outdoor heating appliances can benefit from a subsidy after applying online;
- aimed at retailers only, the development ministry announced that it would be financing as of January the total cost for the creation of online store operations (e-shop);
- concerning very small companies with turnover between €100,000 - 200,000 unable to access bank lending for working capital, the Hellenic Development Bank plans to expand its business financing program. From the end of January, very small enterprises will have access to a total of €450 million in working capital loans with Greek state guarantees.
Following the vaccination of frontline healthcare workers and vulnerable groups that have priority, the vaccinations of the general population will begin sometime during the second 10 days of January 2021.
On Wednesday 12 August, Greece reported its highest daily tally since the start of the outbreak in the country with 230 new cases of COVID-19. The country’s pandemic death toll stands at 226. Aiming to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Greece, the Government announced a series of new precautionary measures on 17 August, including extra restrictions for the islands of Paros and Antiparos.
The following measures apply from 17 August through to 24 August:
- A 50-person cap at public events in affected areas, with the exception of activities and events where special rules apply such as restaurants, theatres, cinemas etc.
- Restaurants, clubs and entertainment venues in Attica, which includes Athens, the Saronic Gulf and Kythira islands, close at midnight through to 7am. The measure also applies to the regions of Crete, Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, Thessaloniki, Halkidiki, Larissa, Corfu, Mykonos, Paros, Santorini, Volos, Katerini, Rhodes, Antiparos. Zakynthos and Kos.
- Emergency restrictions already imposed on Poros island will be extended to 24 August - bars, clubs and restaurants will be required to close at midnight (from the current 11.00 pm curfew).
- Masks are mandatory in army barracks, social solidarity structures, and in refugee and migrant reception and accommodation facilities.
- Staff on holiday leave returning to work at care facilities, nursing homes, military camps, social solidarity structures, and refugee and migrant accommodation facilities will be required to undergo COVID-19 testing prior to work.
- Holidaymakers returning to their homes are strongly advised to wear masks at all times for a week in all public and private enclosed areas and in public when social distancing is not possible.
- Public or private sector employees who are considered vulnerable and at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, as of 31 August will be able to choose to work from home or from the back office.
In the meantime, the Attica regional authority has cancelled all cultural events starting 16 August through to 31 August in its regional divisions: Central Athens, Southern Athens, Northern Athens, Western Athens, Piraeus, Saronic Islands, Western Attica and Eastern Attica. Earlier this month, the European Commission amended its forecast for the Greek economy. Although the Commission still expects Greek GDP to fall by 9% this year, it believes the economic prospects for 2020 in the aftermath of COVID-19 are milder than first predicted, with 2021 expected to see a positive rebound with growth of around 6%.
Although the rapid response from the Government to implement lockdown was critical, in a country heavily reliant on tourism and with a significant proportion of small and medium-sized companies, the effects of the pandemic are powerful in the economy. The Government is trying to mitigate this impact, it voted the measure of 40% reduction in the commercial rent of March and April 2020 to all enterprises affected by the pandemic among other cash flow boost measures. The Government announced plans for a gradual return to normality starting on 4 May. The impact of the pandemic on Greek real estate is apparent. Although transactions at an advanced stage are proceeding with difficulties, in purchaser due diligence mostly international players are adopting a cautious approach placing on hold their short-term new activity. However, many domestic investors continue actively looking for opportunities in real estate, a trend which progressively expands every week.
Construction activity has been slowed down which is expected to cause delays in the completion of new office, industrial and residential buildings, and refurbishments. Office occupiers have mostly postponed new leasing transactions, while under review of their short-term plans are interested in shorter and more flexible lease terms. Retail and hospitality sectors are the hardest hit segments, similarly to the other European markets. The logistics sector on the one hand is facing difficulties due to suspended deliveries of goods on the other hand, the increasing demand for e-commerce is helping the sector.
During Q1 2020, all asset classes experienced stable YoY performance due to increased activity during the first two months of the year. Quarterly preliminary data shows reduced investment volumes YoY in 1st Quarter of 2020 while the closing of Porto Carras sale in mid-April which has been agreed before COVID-19 will boost transaction volume in 2nd Quarter. However, we are expecting a rather low Q2 & Q3 and hoping for a Q4 eyeing for a stronger Q4 activity.