Despite improvements to the levels of infection, the government has decided to maintain restrictions in the Metropolitan Area of Lisbon for another fortnight.
This effectively means the country is running in three distinct stages of alert:
● the strictest in 19 Lisbon parishes involves the imposition of a ‘State of Calamity’ – where people are still confined to their homes unless they need to go out for work, food, medication or to help a sick relative.
● The second applies to the rest of the Metropolitan Area of Lisbon, involving a State of Contingency, which sees restrictions on shop opening hours, the sale of alcohol after 8pm and the meeting of people in groups (no more than 10).
● The rest of the country is in a State of Alert, which means groups of people of no more than 20 can come together at any time, while all the limitations on physical distancing, the wearing of masks etc continue.
Despite the fact that numbers are ‘coming down’, the situation in Portugal has led to a number of countries – beyond the UK – imposing travel restrictions.
Finland, Denmark, Slovakia, Austria, Cyprus and Romania, for example, have forbidden nationals from visiting Portugal at all this summer, while Estonia, Slovakia, Hungary, Malta and Bulgaria are demanding nationals go into 14-day quarantine on their return home.
Currently ‘fire-fighting’ in Europe for EU funds ahead of a summit in Brussels starting on Friday, António Costa told reporters last night that he’s “convinced” that other Member States are “finally” realising that the increase in Portugal’s cases is “very localised” and therefore does not merit draconian blanket limitations on overall travel.
“Today we have a country where the situation is essentially very low, but we have 19 parishes – among 3000 – where there are a significant number of new cases”, he said, stressing that he has been putting the country’s picture to Dutch PM Mark Rutte whose authorities had ‘blanked’ Porto from ‘safe travel’. That now has been rectified, with Dutch nationals only being warned away from Lisbon.
Mr Costa has also been in touch with the Irish government, to explain that destinations favoured by Irish tourists – namely the Algarve and Madeira – are indeed ‘safe’ and very different from destinations in the Metropolitan Area of Lisbon.
“This is a very important message because people just look at the global numbers of a country and very often these do not give a notion of the situation”, he said.
Regarding the change of Belgian travel advice (the Belgians are now advising nationals to ‘see a doctor’ if they return home from the Alentejo or Algarve), Mr Costa seemed less concerned.
“It’s simply a recommendation that people go to see a doctor” not a “great disincentive”, he said, stressing the change in the overall picture in both destinations came as a result of two “absolutely atypical phenomena”: the ‘illegal party in Odiàxere’ Algarve, and an outbreak in an old people’s home in Reguengos de Monsaraz…
As he reiterated, it is up to every single citizen to stick to health authority advice and protect themselves and those around them.
The Algarve “and the rest of the country are paying a very elevated price for that little party (in Odiàxere). Larks like this simply cannot continue”, he added. “I think people have worked that out, and I hope they’ll all behave differently from now on”.