State of Emergency: Government starts explaining what it all means

As the government draws up lists of establishments that must close, and businesses that need to stay open, various messages are coming out in the nation’s press.

First and foremost is the fact that of course people are allowed out of their homes. They have every right to walk their dogs, buy food, go to the pharmacy and/ or the bank. 

Some people even are allowed still to go to work, although ‘remote working from home’ is essentially the rule now.

Other than these few reasons, people are expected to stay home.

Says Expresso: “When you leave your homes this morning, it will be another strange day but you won’t yet see the effects of last night’s declaration of a State of Emergency. Portugal entered this most grave of situations at midnight on March 18. Further restrictive measures will only be approved today.

“On the table of the Council of Ministers (meeting as we write) are recommendations from the health authorities that will accentuate restrictions on the functioning of commercial activities, but these won’t involve obligatory testing, quarantine or the closure of businesses”, says the paper. 

The government will be “taking decisions on the basis of what has happened in other countries – particularly Spain and Italy (where the death and infection tolls are the worst in Europe) – and on the recommendations of the general directorate of health (DGS) consulted by the prime minister last night”.

The measures emerging will be subject to change and re-evaluation “at any moment”, warns Expresso, itemising the first in a list that is likely to get longer:

  1. All businesses requiring the physical presence of customers/ clients are to close with the exception of supermarkets, fuel stations, pharmacies and banks.
  2. A positive list is being drawn up of establishments that MUST stay open (says Expresso, explaining that beyond establishments recommended by the DGS, there could be others, like those that sell animal feed).
  3. A negative list is being drawn up of businesses that MUST close. One of the overriding concerns is that lines of distribution must be maintained (and for this to be possible, production also has to be allowed to go ahead).
  4. Restaurants and bars can all remain open, but will only be allowed to sell ‘take aways’ or effect home deliveries.
  5. ‘Teleworking’ (working from home on computers/ devices) is now obligatory for all functions that can be performed this way.
  6. Public services are to be reduced to ‘the essential’.
  7. All leisure/ cultural services and institutions must remain closed: this covers libraries, cinemas, theme parks, clubs, gyms etc.
  8. Media organisations must continue working as long as social distancing measures are ensured.
  9. Public transports stay in operation, albeit in a reduced capacity.

When it comes to the most vulnerable, the DGS is in collaboration with councils and social services to ensure these receive home-deliveries of ‘essential goods’ (food and medication).

The message to everyone else is ‘look out for your elderly neighbours’.

As the days progress it’s very likely there will be ‘times’ published in which the elderly are given preference for shopping.

Stresses Expresso: “The intention of (prime minister) António Costa is not to close the country down, even though he has constitutional support with this State of Emergency to do so”.

The measures introduced so far are simply what the authorities deem “necessary, adequate and proportionate”.

Both Mr Costa and President Marcelo have praised the attitude of the Portuguese population this far. Communities have knuckled down from the outset, with many taking the State of Alert on face value, and voluntarily isolating since last week.

As new measures are announced, the Resident will be reporting on them. 

Said President Marcelo, this is a war that requires “resistance, solidarity and courage”.

“The road ahead of us will be long, difficult and very unpleasant”, he added. “But I have no doubt that we will win”

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com