Schools stay open! PM presents Portugal’s new lockdown

Prime minister António Costa has announced the form of Portugal’s new lockdown which comes into effect from 0.00 hours on Friday – not Thursday as previously suggested.

The ‘surprise’ is that ALL schools are to remain open. 

This is contrary to the wishes of  ‘health experts’ – but for the government it is fundamental. 

“We believe the pros trounce the contras. We cannot sacrifice a generation any further… sacrifice another academic year…”

Schools are ‘safe’, the PM insisted  – and all those within them will be the subject of regular antigen tests to ensure any outbreaks are discovered quickly.

As to the rest, the lockdown is along the lines of the first, in March – with fines for disobedience to be doubled.

“Each one of us has to stay at home”, Mr Costa stressed. “We have to mobilise in the sense of a community. We have to unite once again with the firm intention of saving lives, protecting the SNS (national health service) and supporting our health professionals”.

The decision comes, he explained, at a point when 536 lives have been lost to the virus since last Sunday. The moment is critical.

Thus ‘working from home’ is mandatory for everyone who can. All non-food related businesses will close – the only exceptions being law courts and dentists.

Pharmacies, supermarkets (large and small), veterinary clinics can continue to function with strict rules as to the number of people allowed in at any one time.

Religious services can continue – again as long as they conform to DGS sanitary regulations. And visits to old people’s homes will still be allowed, on the same basis.

But other than these few exceptions, everything must close.

Restaurants and cafés have the opportunity to continue as long as they operate as ‘take-aways’ or run a home-delivery service.

Said the PM, he knows this new confinement “has enormous costs. But the cost of each human life has no price. We have reached the point where we cannot hesitate” – shutting down is the only option.

In spite of trailed reports suggesting hairdressers and barbers will be able to remain open, this has turned out not to be the case: they must close along with all other non-essential services.

“Nobody can be satisfied with these measures”

Accepting that this lockdown will cause enormous pain for hundreds of thousands of citizens, Mr Costa said that new measures of support will be announced by economy minister Pedro Siza Vieira tomorrow (Thursday).

He stressed that it will take “a period between two to three weeks” to see any effects of this lockdown on the virus ‘curve’.

Between the fall in the number of new cases and the fall in the number of hospital admissions there are more than two weeks, said the PM. And only two weeks after the fall in the number of new hospital admissions will we start to see a reduction in the number of new deaths.

Citizens have, in the main, respected all the rules, but “no one will be satisfied with these measures”, he accepted.

If the nation is lucky, in two weeks’ time there may be “a scenario frankly better than the one we have ahead of us right now”.

Professional football continues, but without public

All other organised sporting activities –  including gyms – have to cease, along with ‘cultural activities’ of all kinds.

Masks ‘must be worn in the street’

This is one issue that remains a little unclear. The rule up till now has been that masks must be worn in the street when there is no possibility to maintain physical distancing. But today, as the new confinement measures were repeated in short ‘breaking news’ texts at the foot of the screen, the message was simply: “Fines to be duplicated in case of disrespect of sanitary rules, like use of mask in the street”.

These fines have been set at anything between €100 to €500, meaning the maximum fine now for ‘not wearing a mask’ when one should be wearing a mask could reach €1,000.

Reasons allowed for people to leave their homes:

  • Food shopping
  • Access to public services
  • Work, when teleworking isn’t possible.
  • Motives of health, domestic violence, human trafficking or in order to protect minors.
  • Support of vulnerable person/ people and/ or other “imperative family reasons”.
  • Taking children to school/ creche or in case of older pupils, going to educational establishment
  • Attendance of occupational activity centres for people with handicaps
  • Sport/ physical activity in open air
  • Walking animals. This must be done “for a short period of time and occur in area of residence. People should walk their pets alone or in the company of someone with whom they share the same house”.
  • Participation in voluntary social actions
  • Visits to old people’s homes or institutions for people with handicaps
  • Delivery of essential items to dependent people
  • Access to Post Office, banks or insurance brokers.

The above list has been compiled by Expresso which adds that people are allowed to use their cars in order to fill up with fuel or perform any of the ‘exceptions’ permitted to staying at home.

Diário de Notícias has since added the ability for people to leave home if they are “seeking work or going to a job interview” and if they need to attend “training, the realisation of tests or exams, as well as the realisation of inspections” (this suggest MOT (IPO) centres will be remaining open for routine car inspections.

Presidential elections

The State of Emergency ‘cannot suspend political activity’, thus dispensations have been given for people to place their votes either on January 17 (early voting) or January 24 (election day). The idea is that they leave their homes to vote, and then return home.

Portuguese citizens are the only people able to vote in these presidential elections which have been vastly compromised by the measures in place to stem the virus.

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