New Covid restrictions threaten to spoil New Year for Algarve businesses

Businesses in the Algarve are up in arms over the impact of the latest Covid-19 restrictions announced on Tuesday by Prime Minister António Costa (click here).

While bars and discos will be forced to close between December 25 and January 9 – during what would normally be one of the most profitable times of the ‘low season’ – hotels and restaurants are also concerned about the economic impact that the restrictions could have.

For example, anyone going to a restaurant, casino or New Year party on December 24, 25, 30, 31 and January 1 will have to present a negative PCR or antigen Covid test (verified by a health professional) whether they are vaccinated or not.

Negative tests will also be required for entering hotels and other tourist lodgings.

“Obviously, this will have a large impact as any client who has booked with us will face higher costs, and it will make people think twice about travelling,” Sofia Hipólito, general manager of Hotel Faro, told TVI.

João Fernandes, president of the Algarve Tourism Board, describes the situation as a ‘glass half full’, celebrating the fact that borough lockdowns were not announced this time.

He also stressed that there are no mandatory curfews or restrictions on capacity at tourist establishments, although he did acknowledge the huge impact that the restrictions will have on bars and discos in the Algarve.

In fact, the Association of Discos of the South and Algarve has already reacted with “disappointment and concern” to the news.

As the association’s president pointed out, New Year is usually the time of year when businesses in the south of Portugal make the most money and the upcoming holiday was being viewed as an opportunity to make up for the huge losses that the sector has suffered during the pandemic.

“Entrepreneurs were not expecting this,” Liberto Mealha told Lusa news agency, lamenting that it is always during the “normally busiest periods” that the toughest restrictions are implemented.

The support measures announced by the government – the return of the simplified ‘lay-off’ regime for two weeks and access to the programme – are also being viewed as insufficient.

Explained Mealha, the measures will not be enough to make up for the losses that the restrictions will spell for the sector, which he added is reaching “breaking point”.

Feeling “discouraged” and worried about the future, “companies and entrepreneurs are economically desperate”, he said.

Algarve retailers’ association ACRAL has also urged the government for “immediate measures” to minimise the effects of the restrictions, such as the creation of testing centres near affected businesses.

Even before these latest restrictions were announced, the Algarve Municipalities Association (AMAL) had already announced that all New Year’s events and parties would be cancelled in an attempt to avoid the spread of Covid-19.

So far, less than half of the region’s 16 municipalities have confirmed that they will have fireworks.

Tavira Council has confirmed that a firework display, which will be visible from “several parts of the town”, is planned.

In Albufeira, while the town council cancelled end-of-year festivities, it will nonetheless put on a fireworks’ show. Portimão is also due to have fireworks lighting up the skies in Praia da Rocha and Alvor, as well as Vila do Bispo from Barão de São Miguel all the way to Sagres and Vila Real de Santo António in Vila Nova de Cacela and Monte Gordo.

The remaining boroughs had not confirmed whether they would have firework displays at the time of going to press.