President and PM address nation: Portugal’s confinement set to run till Easter

This evening saw both prime minister António Costa and President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa address the nation, to underline the fact that Portugal’s lockdown is nowhere near being lifted.

Indications in the air were for “a month”, “a month and a half”, “until Easter”, before politicians will be prepared to ease restrictions.

“There is no Carnaval, Easter will be different, deconfinement isn’t even on the horizon” was the gist of PM Costa’s message at a press conference this evening following the approval of yet another State of Emergency.

Technically, the new State of Emergency will run to March 1, but realistically, it will continue, stressed the PM.

Yes, numbers are coming down in terms of new infections, deaths, hospital internments – but there is a very long way to go.

According to President Marcelo who spoke a couple of hours after the prime minister, no thoughts of deconfinement can come until new infections are consistently down to numbers below 2,000, and numbers in hospital have reduced to a quarter of what they are now.

For anyone hoping for a roadmap out of lockdown, there was no light at all.

Said the PM, the two greatest ‘issues’ at play are the variants, and the vaccines (or rather lack of them).

Portugal was hoping to receive 4.4 million doses of vaccine during the first three months of 2021 – but will in fact only get half this amount (slightly less): 1.98 million doses. This is “another reason to prolong confinement”, he said – as the variants worry the experts over their ability to reduce effects of immunity.

The situation remains “extremely serious”, albeit lockdown measures are showing effect.

“The reduction in the number of new cases every day is very visible”, Mr Costa insisted. “The Rt number at 0.77 is now “the lowest it has been in the country since the start of the pandemic”. But this hasn’t stopped Portugal registering a level of 960 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the last 14 days, which “according to the table of the European Centre for Disease Control is extremely serious”…

And so the one message dovetailed into the next – with the President making it very clear, once again, that now is not the time for any political crises “no matter how seductive” the temptation might be.

‘The last two weeks have been difficult, but they ended better than they began’, said the head of State who has repeatedly addressed the nation after renewals of the State of Emergency.

“We have to exit spring without another summer and autumn threatened in terms of life, health, the economy and society”, he said. “We have to ensure that Easter, at the beginning of April, isn’t the cause of a return to more months of what we’ve experienced in the last few weeks”. 

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