Photo: Twitter/antoniocostapm

Portugal’s PM warns pandemic ‘serious’, urges citizens to stay home

Portugal’s prime minister called for most citizens to stay home this weekend and next, saying it was vital to fight the spread of COVID-19.

“This weekend is going to be very different, as we’re going to have to stay at home in the afternoon and at night. It is going to be very hard for everyone, who would like to do what they feel like doing,” Costa said in a video released on Saturday to explain why the new restriction measures were necessary.

Costa admitted that this weekend and next would be “difficult for many economic activities, for restaurants and commerce,” which he said would see “big losses.”

However, he stressed that the pandemic was “serious” and recalled that in the first wave the maximum number of daily cases reached 1,516 cases while on Friday the country saw 6,653 new infections – four times more than in the first wave.

The second reason for the new measures, he went on, was that the government wanted to avoid a lock-down like the one implemented in the first wave, in March and April, when economic activities closed and schools were shut down, with most people told to stay home.

“We managed to contain the outbreak, but we must also remember the consequences it had on mental health, and on a social and economic level. Thousands of jobs were lost, while businesses that were forced to close and many families suffered huge losses of income. We must now avoid that.”

That is why the government is now opting for a “lesser evil”, imposing weekend lockdowns to try to maintain people’s daily lives as normal as possible during the week, without interrupting school and economic activities, he added.

He said the third reason for the measures was to support health professionals who are on the frontline against Covid-19. “The work they are carrying out is tremendous, and we can help them by doing our bit and avoid more infections and more sick people requiring treatment,” Costa pointed out. 

Portugal saw the number of confirmed coronavirus infections hit a record high on Friday, with over 200,000 cases.

On Monday the government introduced a state of emergency to take the pressure off its health system, ordering most of its population to stay home during the week from 11 pm to 5 am and during the weekends after 1 pm. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the country has reported 3,250 deaths and 204,664 cases of infections.