Policy responses for Greece - HSRM

Greece


Policy responses for Greece

6. Measures in other sectors

6.1 Measures in other sectors

Many MEASURES IN OTHER SECTORS beyond the immediate scope of the health system are being taken to prevent further spread of the virus. This section contains information on many of these areas, including border and travel restrictions and economic and fiscal measures, among others.

Borders and mobility

On March 14, all air traffic with Italy was banned. Furthermore, on March 16, Greece closed its borders with Albania and North Macedonia, only permitting the transportation of goods and the entry of Greek nationals and residents. The suspension of ferry services to and from Italy, air links to Spain, as well as the prohibition of all cruise ships and sailboats docking in Greek ports was also decided.

On March 20, Minister of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy announced that only permanent residents and supply trucks would be allowed to travel to the Greek islands (see also section 1.2). Travelers need to provide proof of permanent residence (via a tax certificate) on the island to which they wish to travel. People who are already on the islands and wish to leave are allowed to return to the mainland.
 
On March 22, the Greek government announced a ban on all nonessential transport and movement across the country. On April 7, further restrictions on travel by sea, air and land, until April 27, were applied as part of the efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19 during Easter (see details in section 1.2) Area-specific lockdowns have been applied (see details in section 1.2 and 5).

Opening of borders

Until June 15, international flights are allowed only into Athens airport. All visitors are tested upon arrival and are required to stay overnight at a designated hotel. If the test is negative, then the passenger self-quarantines for 7 days. If the test is positive, the passenger is quarantined under supervision for 14 days. International flights to Athens and Greece's second-largest city of Thessaloniki to resume on June 15. The list of countries was compiled based on their epidemiological profile and taking into account the announcements made by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the relevant recommendations of the Infectious Diseases Committee. 

June 15 and until June 30, 2020:

Flights from Albania and North Macedonia to Athens International Airport will only be permitted for “essential travel." Arriving passengers are categorised in accordance with their origin in three distinct groups as follows:
GROUP A: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland.
GROUP B: Albania, Belgium, France, Italy, North Macedonia, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, other non-EU countries.

Passengers arriving at Athens International Airport originating from GROUP A will be subject to random COVID-19 testing upon their arrival. Passengers arriving at Athens International Airport originating from GROUP B, either with a direct flight or through a country included in Group A, will be subject to 100% Covid-19 testing upon their arrival. Passengers arriving at Thessaloniki Airport, will be subject to 100% Covid-19 testing upon their arrival. All international passengers will be provided, during check in or on board, with a Passenger Location Form, to be filled and provided to the authorities upon arrival. Tested passengers have to compulsory self-isolate in the address they will declare for 24 hours, until the testing outcome is available.

Connecting Passengers are subject to COVID-19 testing upon their arrival in Athens or Thessaloniki and will be able to continue their trip to their final destination, where they will self-isolate until the testing outcome is available. Furthermore, the Greek Government has extended flight restrictions from/to UK and Turkey until June 29th, 2020. Foreign ferries are forbidden from docking at Greek ports, while pleasure boats are permitted with only crew aboard.

As far as land arrivals are concerned, they will be permitted from Bulgaria as of June 15, but remain banned for Turkey, Albania and North Macedonia (with the exception of absolutely necessary business trips). Those restrictions will be lifted on July 1 for Albania and North Macedonia, while the situation with Turkey will be reviewed on June 30.

July 1 onwards:

Greece at any stage retains the right to modify any of the above in light of changing circumstances. A team within the Infectious Diseases Committee evaluates the epidemiological data on a regular basis and recommends changes to restrictions.

All visitors from air, land or sea, are subject to tests rules upon arrival (see section 1.5). 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.

Residents form EU+ countries are allowed to travel to Greece. EU+ consists of the European Union, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland. Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay, China*. *subject to confirmation of reciprocity. Other countries citizens are allowed to travel to Greece only for essential travel.

AIR
International flights are allowed into all airports in Greece. Extension of ban for direct flights from the UK & Sweden until July 15th.

LAND
Land border arrivals from Bulgaria are allowed through Promachonas border station. Entry from other border stations with Bulgaria is allowed for essential travel. With regards to Albania, North Macedonia and Turkey entry is allowed for essential travel. Essential travel is allowed through Nymfaia, Krystallopigi, Kakavia, Kipi, Evzones and Promachonas points of entry.

SEA
Arrivals by sea by ferry ships are allowed only in Patras, Corfu and Igoumenitsa ports. Travelers must complete 24 hours before their arrival in Greece a Passenger Locator Factor (PLF) form and a confirmation email will be received upon its submission. An electronic or hard copy of the PLF confirmation should be presented to the designated crew members before embarkation onboard a ship at any Italian port. Travelers will also receive the PLF with a QR code on the day of their scheduled arrival in Greece (at midnight) and will be notified via email (the QR code will be provided in a link in the confirmation email). No such restriction applies on yachting.

Economy and state aid

Following a Eurogroup meeting in mid-March, Greece’s primary surplus target of 3.5% GDP was abolished, with expenditure for health and the concurrent immigration crisis being excluded from government budget targets. Also, the Ministry of Finance announced the inclusion of Greece in the ECB new pandemic emergency purchase programme (PEPP) with an overall envelope of 750€ billion to address the unprecedented situation the euro area is facing. After securing substantial fiscal space, the government enacted temporary measures to support the economy. On March 19, the Prime Minister announced the allocation of more than 10€ billion in support of the economy as a result of the revised state budget.

According to the six COVID-19 related acts of legislative content, the following urgent measures were announced for the handling of the potential economic effects of the coronavirus spread and the support of the economy and entrepreneurship

Suspension of tax and social security contributions

A four (4) month suspension of payment of tax obligations and social security contributions that refer to the month of March, without the imposition of penalties and/or interest for late payment, will be provided to enterprises of business sectors that are drastically affected because of COVID -19 (their main activity must be among the specific Activity Code Numbers announced by the Ministry of Finance). In particular, VAT amounts as assessed in VAT returns, due within March; tax liabilities of any type already assessed and due for payment to tax offices or Tax Audit Centers and installments of outstanding tax liabilities that are subject to any special settlement or payment facilitation process.

In relation to the above, it was further defined by Ministerial Decision A.1053/21.3.2020, that for enterprises (whose activity falls under the Activity Code Numbers stated in this Decision), and employees of the above enterprises, the extension of payment deadlines for tax obligations, which were/are due in the period from 11 March 2020 until 30 April 2020, will be extended to 31 August 2020.

The above reliefs shall apply on condition that the enterprises being granted the reliefs will retain the existing number of employees.

On March 30, an extension for tax payments was been granted to the elderly(aged >70)and citizens with disabilities.

On 09.04.2020, the Ministry of Finance through the issuance of a Press Release announced the extension of the deadline for the submission of interest about the award of the repayable advance (the term used for loans granted by the State to businesses affected by the virus crisis). In particular, it has been announced, that businesses, which wish to receive the repayable advance from the State, shall submit their expressions of interest in the electronic platform “myBusinessSupport” until Tuesday, 21.04.2020.

Employment

On March 20, a law passed, allowing part time employment (2 weeks a month), alongside a 50% pay cut, but with a job retention clause.

Income Subsidy

Private sector employees whose contracts were temporarily suspended received a lump sum subsidy of €800, while their respective insurance contributions were covered in full by the state.Apart from private sector employees who are eligible for the subsidy mentioned above, a compensation of 800€ will be payable in the beginning of April for all freelancers and self-employed that are drastically affected by the spread of coronavirus (and their activity is included in the Activity Code Numbers announced by the Ministry of Finance).Furthermore, six scientific categories (economists and accountants, medical doctors, lawyers and notaries, education professionals, researchers, and freelance scientists) will be granted a financial aid of 600€.

Also, on March 18, it was announced that there would be a suspension for four (4) months of all tax obligations, which are due in March, of freelancers and personal businesses operating in the above-mentioned business sectors.

In addition, businesses will pay in full the 2020 Easter Bonus to all their employees. Health and civil protection workers, on the frontline of the battle against the new coronavirus, will receive a special Easter bonus (a benefit abolished in the public sector during the economic crisis).

Welfare benefits and citizen services

On April 13, 2020 welfare benefits granted due to disability, subject to conditions, were extended to June 30, 2020. In addition, competent authorities and control bodies are obliged to ensure the provision of any necessary facilities to persons with disabilities and chronic diseases, catering to their needs.

According to a circular released on April 14 by the Ministry of Digital Governance, Citizen Service Centers, the country's one-stop centers for obtaining official documents, will be offering at-home delivery of documents and certificates, following a phone order.

An additional 1.8€ billion will be allocated through the European Special Investment Fund / Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative

This fund was created to counter the effects of the spread of COVID-19. The funding will be immediately available and may finance business liquidity, employment support and employee income.
Business liquidity will further be supported by optimally combining funds from the Public Investments Program, the NSRF, the Greek Development Bank and the European Investment Bank Group

Special purpose leave
After school closures on March 10th (see section 1.2), a special purpose leave was introduced for working parents. In more detail:
The special-purpose leave is for parents who have children:
1. enrolled in nursery schools and kindergarten,
2. attending mandatory education schools (general rule: up until the age of 15), and
3. attending special schools or special educational institutions, irrespective of the children’s age, and to working parents of persons with disabilities who, regardless of their age, are cared for by relevant institutions.

The minimum period is 4 days, 3 days of which correspond to the special purpose leave and 1 day to the annual leave of the employee. However, not both parents can claim the leave at the same time.
In the private sector, one third of the leave will be covered by the state budget.
In the public sector, the state will cover all remuneration. Public-sector workers are also given the option of flexible working hours, where possible.

Employees are entitled to the special purpose leave for as long as educational institution operation is suspended and up until 18.05.2020.

Reduced VAT rate for products necessary for COVID-19 protection

The VAT rate is reduced to 6% (from 24%) on products likemasks and gloves; antiseptic liquids, antiseptic wipes and similar products;soaps and similar healthcare products for personal hygiene; ethanol (alcohol) denatured, when it is to be used as raw material for the industrial production of antiseptic; and pure ethanol (alcohol) un-denatured, obtained from agricultural products, of an alcoholic strength of 95%, which is distributed bottled for retail sale. The above reduced rate will be effective until the end of the year (i.e. until 31 December 2020).

Intervention in the real estate market

On April 7 it was announced that enterprises, whose operation has been mandatorily suspended or temporarily interrupted based on special and extraordinary measures taken for precautionary or repressive purposes in relation to the coronavirus spread, shall be exempted from paying 40% of the total amount of rent due for the months of March and April 2020 for the commercial premises that they lease. Stamp duty and VAT shall be re-calculated and remitted on the amount of rent that will result following the above partial payment.

The above exemption shall also apply for residential leases that concern the primary residence of lessees who are employees of the aforementioned enterprises, on condition that the employment relationship was already in effect at the time the special and extraordinary measures for the suspension or temporary interruption of the enterprise’s operation were imposed.

As far as individuals, who are owners of the above mentioned real estate are concerned, (i.e. commercial premises leased to enterprises whose operation has been mandatorily interrupted/primary residences of employees), there will be a four (4) month suspension of payment of their tax obligations and of installments of outstanding taxes in case of settlement or payment facilitation.

Customs provisions

In light of the measures implemented for the confrontation of the coronavirus spread, circular E. 2033/2020 provides guidance with regards to the procedures of import and export of goods into/outside the EU.

In this context, the above decision also provides for the minimization of the documents accompanying the underlying goods in physical form, to facilitate the relevant import and export procedures.

Contribution of the Banking System to persons economically affected

On March 18, it was announced that the Banks would suspend the payment of loan capital installments, for enterprises that are consistent with their payments, until September. This relief concerns legal entities that belong to business sectors drastically affected by the coronavirus spread.
Banks and Loan Servicing companies should extend the above reliefs also to individuals that are economically affected by the coronavirus spread, by facilitating the payment of their loan installments (for performing loans).

It was also announced that employees, free lancers and personal businesses, who will receive the special purpose compensation, will be provided with a three (3) month suspension of their loan installments.

Domestic Tourism

On June 10, a tripling of the budget (from 10 to 30 million euros) and a doubling of the beneficiaries (from 140,000 to 300,000 people)was announced by the Government in regards to the new, enhanced and expanded Social Tourism Program 2020-2021, addressing the needs of low and middle income families (of up to 30,000 euros annual income). It will start on August 1, with the aim of invigorating domestic tourism. In addition to this, the program will provide, for the first time, subsidy of ferry tickets, while reducing the private participation of beneficiaries in all hotels.