Following a marathon Council of Ministers today, lasting well over six hours, prime minister António Costa held a press conference this evening to give more detail on Portugal’s State of Emergency.
Giving very little new information from what has already been reported (click here), he stressed the objective was to allow ‘the maximum by way of efforts to contain the virus, with the minimum of upset’ to people’s daily lives.
A “vast selection of businesses” will be able to remain open, as long as all the measures for social distancing and hygiene are respected.
In other words, kiosks, bakeries, supermarkets, banks, fuel stations, pharmacies, health shops – every kind of operation that supplies services deemed ‘essential’ to ensure the smooth running of daily life will be allowed to stay open, albeit ‘conditioned’ to ensure the safety of staff and customers.
Tomorrow the council will have a further meeting, this time to decide social measures, particularly supporting families and small businesses.
It has been clear from the outset that the ‘State of Emergency’ would be revealed bit by bit, changing possibly as circumstances develop.
With regards flights, Mr Costa said this has pretty much been sorted earlier in the week, in collaboration with the EU (click here) – but from Portugal’s point of view, the government has insisted that TAP maintain certain routes, “like those to the archipelagos”.
A number of Portuguese still stranded in various far-flung corners of the rapidly closing world however. Mr Costa said the government is working on these situations, “case by case” and some of the cases are indeed “complicated”.
At the start of the address, the PM stressed the role of security forces which now have the “repressive function to close businesses that cannot be in operation, proceeding with the crime of disobedience”.
The message – in line with all messages for the last two weeks – is for citizens, particularly the over-70s and those with chronic illnesses, to stay home as much as possible, and help the national effort to ‘flatten the curve’ – referring to the sharp rise so far every day in new cases.
“People with young children and pets are at liberty to take them out for short periods of recreation (preferably one adult at a time but two will be accepted).
It’s clear from all the measures, that the emphasis is on ‘social distancing’ and staying as much as possible within the home.
Restaurants are encouraged to stay open for ‘take aways’ – especially in remote villages where many people will be unable to visit supermarkets on a daily basis.
More details will come after the next meeting, but slowly the country is getting used to the fact that the only way we can ‘beat this thing’ is ‘together’ by following measures supported by the health authorities all to keenly aware the fight started in other places, particularly Italy much too late.