The government of Portugal has declared a state of emergency due to a surge in COVID’19, and ordered a complete two-week, strict lockdown for the whole country, effective Friday, Prime Minister António Costa announced on Wednesday.
The lockdown could be in place indefinitely, although, under Portuguese law, it will be reviewed every 15 days. The newly imposed rules most likely would last a month, said Prime Minister Costa.
Urging people to stay indoors and protect themselves, Prime Minister Costa warned, “We are at the most dangerous moment. The rule is simple: all of us should stay home.”
Under the terms of the lockdown, staying at home will be absolutely mandatory. Domestic travel restrictions will be enforced immediately under the current state of emergency.
As an exception, the lockdown will be lifted on January 17, when early voting will be permitted, and on January 24, the days reserved for Portugal’s presidential elections, allowing voters to go to the polls.
The rules will be similar to the rules imposed during the six-week lockdown imposed between March and April of last year, during the first wave of the pandemic, when the entire population of the country was ordered to ‘stay at home’ except for trips to the shops to buy food/ medication, visits to the doctor, and outdoor exercise, including to walk dogs.
This time, exceptions include companies and institutions providing essential services. Remote working will be compulsory when possible. Businesses where workers are eligible to work from home, and don’t, would be hit with fines starting at 2,000 euros up to over 60,000 euros. Business with employees on layoff will receive some state support.
However, all schools – public and private – including universities, churches and other religious temples, will remain open, but with capacity restrictions and mandatory social protection and appropriate distance measures. Professional sports, including the national football championship, will not be stopped, but with no spectators in the stadiums.
The lockdown will affect mostly small business such as beauty salons, fitness centers and cultural activities which are required to close. Cafés, restaurants, non-food related commerce are also considered non-essential services. Some restaurants will be allowed to operate only with take-out service. Again, financial help will be provided for businesses that have to close, such as restaurants, cinemas and hair salons.
Under the new regulations, people not wearing face masks, when required to do so, can be fined up to 1,000 euros. Recurrent breakers of the rules will be fined doubled.
Since March, Portugal has recorded 517,806 confirmed cases and 8,384 deaths from COVID’19 with a record-breaking surge of cases since it eased restrictions for the Christmas holiday. Health experts predict the number of new daily cases will reach a new peak in a week’s time.
Currently, the 14-day rate of cases per 100,000 inhabitants is 517, according to the European Centre for Disease Control. That places Portugal in 12th highest place among the 31 countries monitored by the European Union agency.
Portugal has already vaccinated 82,000 people against the new coronavirus, giving priority to frontline health workers as well as care home residents.
As of late, funeral services are under pressure since never have so many people have died at the same time. Adding deaths from COVID’19 to those for other reasons, the daily average of deaths has been over 500 people for nine consecutive days.
Due to climate change, Portugal is also experiencing an unusual, severe winter, contributing to the increase fatalities. According to the National Institute of Statistics the country has not reached that high for more than 40 years. The last time it occurred was on June 14 and 15, 1981, after an unprecedented heat wave.
Passengers arriving at national airports who refuse to undergo COVID’19-testing will be liable for fines ranging from 300 to 800 euros. Those planning to travel to Portugal and/or the Islands should visit the American Embassy in Lisbon website, for information regarding terms & condition for travelers.