Covid-19: It will take till June before we can relaunch economy, says PM

Outlining new measures being brought in to help families and the nation’s businesses as everyday activity has been brought to a halt, prime minister António Costa was frighteningly clear on the challenges that Covid-19 has brought with it. “The virus isn’t going to disappear in 14 days time”, he told the press conference that had been waiting hours for his announcement. “This is going to be a long battle”.

According to health authority forecasts “we will live to the end of May with many limitations which will affect the economy”.

In this scenario “we have to leave these three months in the best way possible”.

This means businesses have to remain ‘open’ – even if deeply affected – and jobs have to be secured so that families can continue with their lives when it’s time to resume normal everyday routines.

Measures sketched out this evening are simply the first of a line that will come into force to safeguard jobs, businesses and families’ lives.

Pledges involved lines of credit for companies (click here) – dependent on those companies not letting go of any members of staff – delays in the payment of social security contributions, IVA, IRS and IRC, suspensions of any conclusions to rental contracts (ie no one will be forced out of their homes), a three-month extension on unemployment pay, solidarity complements for the elderly and RSI benefits.

Questions from the floor on what help would be forthcoming for families struggling to pay household bills were not really answered, though the message was: ‘we are working on all of this’.

Bottom line: there will be costs, said Mr Costa. A three-month economic hiatus couldn’t bring anything less. But the essential is to have jobs intact at the end of it, as this will ultimately save families.

For the time being there is no thought of requisitioning companies – (though SIC TV has reported that TAP may be requisitioned to run flights to rescue Portuguese nationals stranded in various parts of the world.)

“These measures are for this three-month period”, said the prime minister. “Up till now it hasn’t been necessary to requisition material but we are in touch with companies who are redirecting their production to manufacture protective material, ventilators and testing kits”.

Restaurants will be the businesses most affected by all the changes, but Mr Costa stressed they will be included in the lines of credit and “could benefit from the delay in social security payments”.

Banks also will have to renegotiate contracts with families and businesses, he said.

“We have to work with realism in the face of what the health authorities are telling us. Up till the end of May we face many limitations to our collective lives. Schools are closed until April 9. But if we have to prolong this, it will have an impact on the lives of families…”

Everything is under constant evaluation. “This is a long-term battle”, Mr Costa reiterated. “No-one can delude themselves. People know this. At the end of three months we will evaluate the damage and think of relaunching the economy…”