Marcelo tweaks decree on State of Emergency as measures bite

President Marcelo has tweaked his decree on the State of Emergency to “extend the possibilities of the government to restrict people’s movements even further”.

As we went to press on Wednesday, the continuation of Portugal’s situation of lockdown was a certainty.

The head of State had been in a flurry of meetings with experts, all insisting that to make headway against the form in which the pandemic is affecting this country, measures of containment ‘must stay in place’.

Wednesday’s press briefing by DGS health authorities showed the terrible ‘curve’ of new cases was finally ‘reducing’ (click here).

The country is by no means out of the woods: deaths were up by 16.9% on Wednesday. The number of people in hospital was growing all the time, and ICU units were at the largest capacity, so far.

But reading between the lines, the lockdown is ‘working’.

Fresh from another ‘emergency meeting’ of the Council of Ministers, prime minister António Costa went on primetime afternoon television to stress that rules are about to tighten. In conversation with SIC’s popular talk show hostess Cristina Ferreira, he said: “people have to realise that they can’t drive around from one place to another”.

The inference was loud and clear: Easter has been cancelled.

Up till now, police have been ‘advising’ drivers they find out on the roads, but from tomorrow (Thursday) these actions are likely to harden.

“There will be more of them on the road”, promised Mr Costa, adding a special message for any emigrés thinking of ‘coming home for the holidays’: “Please don’t, because you will not be allowed to leave the house”.

Sitting in the ‘comfortable armchairs’ of Ms Ferreira’s studio, the PM said he couldn’t come up with a date for Portugal’s release from lockdown, or from this crisis. “We will come out of all this the much poorer and more fragile from the economic point of view”, but there is no other way to emerge – particularly at a time when so many elderly people are being released from old people’s homes back into the community as a way of reducing the risk of infections spreading too fast in the institutional context.

As for schools, it is still much too early to say. The month of May may see some reopen, said Costa, but equally there is too much to consider in the meantime.

Speaking to journalists later in the day, Mr Costa reiterated that there is “still no light at the end of the tunnel”. We all have to knuckle down and ensure our behaviour doesn’t put anyone else at risk.

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