By Jonathan Davies

The scale of the financial and economic crisis in Greece intensified yesterday (Thursday) as bank's cash reserves fell below €500 million.

Greek banks have largely been closed this week, but some have opened to allow pensioners without a bank card to gain access to their money.

But bank leaders have been in talks with the Bank of Greece, calling for immediate release of emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) funds. Without emergency funding, banks fear that the country's vital tourism sector could collapse due to a lack of food and pharmaceutical imports.

Officials have said the central bank will release funds on Friday, but as a temporary solution.

Greek banks have also dropped the daily withdrawal limit at ATMs from €60 to €50 after many of those that still have money in them began to run out of €20 notes.

Constantine Michalos, head of the Hellenic Chambers of Commerce, said "We are reliably informed that the cash reserves of the banks are down to €500m. Anybody who thinks they are going to open again on Tuesday is day-dreaming. The cash would not last an hour.

"We are in an extremely dangerous situation. Greek companies have been excluded from the electronic transfers of Europe's Target2 system. The entire Greek business community is unable to import anything, and without raw materials they can't produce anything."