Presidential decree for ‘soft’ State of Emergency opens with ‘restrictions to liberty and mobility’

The presidential decree for a ‘soft’ State of Emergency in Portugal opens with ‘restrictions to liberty and mobility’.

It is on its way to parliament this afternoon, and expected to be approved tomorrow (Friday).

The document sets out four ‘rights’ to be partially limited from Monday November 9 to Monday November 23, the first being “restrictions to liberty and mobility” (which technically are two rights…)

The understanding is that after midnight on November 23, the restrictions may be renewed, for two-weekly periods each time.

The first State of Emergency ran for six weeks during the spring.

The scope of this second ‘soft’ version can – and almost certainly will – change over the course of bi-monthly renewals.

Thus for now, it involves restrictions on these ‘four rights’.

Says the text, for the first right (or those two rights): “Competent public authorities can impose restrictions necessary to reduce the risk of contagion and execute measures to prevent and combat the epidemic, particularly in the municipalities with the highest risk level” (these are the 121 boroughs which entered partial lockdown yesterday click here) as well as a ban on driving on public roads during certain periods of the day, or certain days of the week and the prohibition of unjustified travel”.

Unjustified travel is travel that is not in “the performance of professional activities”, not for “obtaining health care, assisting third parties… or other powerful reasons”.

These ‘powerful reasons’ are to be specified by the government. But still any kind of ‘circulation’ in this regard should be “preferably unaccompanied”.

Right two covers ‘private, social and cooperative initiative’ and essentially paves the way to civil requisitioning.

Says the text: “Resources, means and establishment of healthcare provision integrated in the private, social and cooperative sectors can be used by competent public authorities, preferably by agreement with fair compensation, depending on what is necessary to ensure the treatment of patients with Covid-19 and the maintenance of assistance activity in relation to other pathologies”.

This last ‘service’ was recently suspended in SNS state hospitals, by order of the health minister (click here).

Right three to be affected is the “right of workers”. Says the text, any workers within the public, private, or social / cooperative sectors can be “mobilised by competent authorities” to support health authorities and services, namely in conducting epidemiological surveys, tracking contacts and ‘following people under active surveillance’. The workers most likely to be chosen for this kind of conscription are those in prophylactic isolation or covered by the exceptional protection regime for immunocompromised and chronically ill patients.

Right four to be put on hold is the ‘right to free development of personality’. The exact translation from the Portuguese makes no sense, so we can only give a relaxed translation here which seems to imply that people must acquiesce to what may appear to be ‘negative’ procedures with regard to health.

The explanatory text reads: “Body temperature controls may be imposed by non-invasive means as well as diagnostic tests for SARS-CoV-2, namely for the purposes of access and permanence in the workplace or as a condition of access to public services and institutions, cultural and sports spaces; in the use of means of transports, and with regard to people institutionalised or accommodated in residential structures, health establishments, prisons or educational centres”.

The president’s decree has been ‘approved by the Council of Ministers’ and will now be ‘discussed’ in parliament, for a vote scheduled for tomorrow at 4pm.

It will be interesting to see how ‘soft’ minority parties actually believe this decree to be.

The vote is certain to go in the government’s favour, as the decree is understood to have full PSD support.

For the original text to the presidential decree, click here.

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