PM Costa preparing to ‘reopen Portugal for business’

Prime Minister António Costa is preparing to reopen Portugal for business.

The timeline is definitely set for May: the exact day difficult right now to gauge.

Talking to the nation to mark Good Friday, President Marcelo said he would definitely be extending the State of Emergency to May 1 (which implies a further two-week period from April 17).

António Costa meantime has been heard suggesting the lockdown ‘could continue’ until May 17.

But from that date, it’s pretty much a certainty Portugal will be opening up, even if only partially.

According to Expresso, Mr Costa will be meeting with economists on Tuesday, to hear their take on how bad things are, and what might be needed in terms of rescue packages.

On television himself today (Friday), the PM stressed that whatever the date for ‘reopening’ the economy, the risks to public health will remain very real.

He told TVI talk show Você na TV that even an ‘optimist’ like himself can be pessimistic as without a vaccine, Covid-19 will “continue to circulate”.

But as the consensus is that Portugal cannot stay closed for very much longer, Mr Costa’s focus now will be on understanding the “fragilities” at play; what kind of role government policies could have in a recovery; whether the crisis has already structurally changed the economy and whether there is a way to ‘convert’ businesses to reduce dependency for essential products on ‘third party countries’ (click here).

Expresso says next Tuesday’s meeting will involve representatives from INE (the national statistics institute), the Council of Public Finances, Bank of Portugal, ISEG (Lisbon school of economics) and the Catholic University.

Whatever is decided, the path forwards will be ‘progressive, slow and not without mistakes or changes of direction”.

As other countries are equally keen to ‘get back to work’, the European Commission has drawn up a roadmap that it hasn’t yet been able to launch. The blueprint gives an idea of how commerce across the board may be allowed to return.

Says Expresso, the EC plan starts first with “little shops, then restaurants and only at the end places that bring large numbers of people together”.

The government basically is between a rock and a hard place, the paper concludes. On one side we have a picture of devastating economic impact, on the other experts who “continue to advise on a surgical reopening of the economy” as without a specific remedy to tackle the novel coronavirus there will always be the risk of more seriously sick people and more deaths.

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