President Marcelo declares Portugal’s 5-day ‘borough lockdown’ simply “a recommendation”

Hours before the country braced for a five-day borough lockdown, President Marcelo dropped a bombshell. The government’s imposition on citizens to remain in their boroughs of residence until 6am on November 3 is not legally-binding (as indeed so many have complained) – thus it can only be taken as “a recommendation”, albeit an “aggravated one”.

Bizarrely, only Expresso seems to have tackled the nitty-gritty of the president’s message.

Other newspapers are telling their readers that restrictions on circulating between municipalities are “already in place”.

Disobedience or attempts to travel using ‘false declarations’ of exemption “could lead to prison”, warns tabloid Correio da Manhã this morning.

Police are already sited at borough boundaries – and for anyone unaware of the president’s ‘last minute intervention’ this long weekend is looking seriously ‘conditioned’.

But according to Expresso, Marcelo “understands the doubts raised by Constitutionalists” and has made what the paper calls “a free reading of the government’s decision”.

Says Expresso, the Head of State “talks of very large judicial tolerance – but restrictions of the type the government is attempting to impose can only come with changes in the law or a declaration of a State of Emergency”.

For now, the government’s position is that people should be respecting the borough lockdowns and waiting to hear what measures come out of tomorrow’s ‘extraordinary meeting of the Council of Ministers’.

President Marcelo’s position clearly is that citizens remain free to do as they think sensible.

“This is a measure with a very high number of exceptions”, he told journalists last night. “It is being applied with very great tolerance which means it is less of an imposition than an aggravated recommendation”.

So where does this leave us? Much of the nation’s press is talking about ‘surgical measures’ likely to come from tomorrow’s extraordinary meeting – restrictions to limit areas where Covid infections are spiralling, without the need to declare a new State of Emergency. But Marcelo’s intervention re-opens the door on a State of Emergency. It may be the only way to ‘impose’ the restrictions the government thinks are necessary.

Says Expresso, it would “very probably” be a “different version of the State of Emergency declared in the spring, to avoid a new national lockdown”.

To this end, prime minister António Costa is meeting all parties today (Friday) to sound-out their thoughts “on the best way to legally-frame decisions (which need to be taken)”.

Stresses the paper: “Neither Marcelo or Costa want to advance to a new State of Emergency without consensus”.

Said Marcelo last night: “There were measures that were easier to take eight months ago than they are now”.

For restrictions to be effective the country needs “social and parliamentary consensus” he said. “People need to understand whether or not there are reasons to put their foot on the accelerator again to protect life and health”.

So to the question ‘can we travel outside our borough over the next five days’, the simple answer is ‘yes’. The considered answer is ‘try not to’.

More to come tomorrow when the prime minister will address the nation following whatever decisions are taken at the extraordinary Council of Ministers.

President Marcelo has said that he will also be talking to the nation, but ‘next week’.

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