Social partners present government with their plans for reopening Portugal from next Monday

Today is the day social partners – the various business confederations and groups – meet with the government to present their ideas on how Portugal’s ‘deconfinement’ should begin.

Tomorrow (Thursday) will see the government present its plan – and for once ‘leaks through the press’ have been in short supply.

As of today, there seem to be multiple scenarios on the table:

  • The return of creches, nursery schools and primary schools on Monday, along with local commerce, the sale of non-alcoholic drinks from café doorways, reopening of bookshops and auto stands;
  • The return only of creches and nursery schools – with primary schools having to wait till after Easter; the reopening of bookshops (perhaps) but little else in this first ‘two week’ phase of reopening.
  • The return of hairdressers and barbers at the same time as the reopening of creches, nursery schools and possibly primary schools.

In other words, nothing is clear. 

CCP – the confederation of commerce and services – is pushing for the partial reopening of restaurants, yet Correio da Manhã – which has had a good handle on government strategy this far – suggests these will be released from restrictions ‘last’.

Advice from the experts at the Infarmed meeting on Monday was that the country’s emergence from lockdown should be ‘very gradual with measures that are more restrictive that they actually need to be’.

A ‘scale of risk’ was presented, showing at what point the country should ‘reopen’ with any degree of safety:

  • Level 5 corresponded to an incidence of 240 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and means ‘total confinement’;
  • Level 4 – 120 cases per 100,000;
  • Level 3 – 60 cases per 100,000;
  • Level 2 – 30 cases per 100,000;
  • Level 1 – 0 cases per 100,000.

It’s increasingly clear that Level 1 is unlikely in the foreseeable future. Right now the country is at level 3 and ‘approaching level 2’ – though the jury is out on whether it will ever get there as Portugal’s deceleration in terms of numbers has been ‘falling off’. 

Experts at Infarmed basically told the government on Monday that the way forwards is to reopen on the basis that the country is still at level 4, and work from there.

That way areas that are not so strapped by virus transmission will be able to advance more quickly through the various two-weeks stages for reopening.

Plotting its way through all the talk, Correio da Manhã has deduced that restaurants may get to open with outside service only (and tables of no more than four people) after the first two-weeks of deconfinement (ie shortly after Easter) – depending of course on how numbers progress in the daily Covid bulletins.

If all goes ‘well’ with a policy of allowing eating outside, restaurants could be opening ‘inside’ by the middle to end of April. But everything hinges on the announcement from the government, due to come after the meeting of the Council of Ministers tomorrow.

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