With more than 54% of the population fully vaccinated against Covid-19 (and 67.8% already with the first dose of the immunizing agent), Portugal has announced the relief of certain restrictive measures from next Sunday ( 1st).
The government will end the mandatory curfew – currently in effect between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. in most parts of the country – and extend the hours of operation of commercial establishments.
Previously forced to close at 10:30 p.m., restaurants can operate until 2:00 a.m. Cultural activities will also resume their usual opening hours.
Sporting events can once again have an audience, with rules yet to be presented by the DGS (Directorate General of Health).
The measures are part of the first of three phases of the new decontamination plan, announced this Thursday (29) by the Prime Minister, António Costa (Socialist Party), after a meeting of the Council of Ministers.
If the epidemiological situation remains under control, the plan provides for the withdrawal of new restrictive measures in September and October. The government does not rule out accelerating the reopening if vaccination coverage increases faster than expected.
“This moment, when more than 50% of the Portuguese are vaccinated, is the moment when we can take a new step. We know that there is a fight against time between vaccination and the ability of the virus to acquire new qualities and continue to transform and create new variants “, justified the Prime Minister.
The Portuguese authorities have also announced the widening of the requirement of the European digital certificate to have access to establishments and activities.
The document, valid in all countries of the European Union, attests to a complete vaccination, a recent test with negative laboratory results or even less than six months of recovery from the disease.
The certificate will now be required to frequent the indoor space of restaurants across the country on weekends and holidays. Until now, the requirement was only valid in cities with the highest risk of contagion.
Customers who stay in outdoor areas of restaurants, for the time being, are exempt from the measure.
The certificate is also required for registration in hotels and apartments throughout Portuguese territory.
In the following phases, the compulsory presentation of the certificate is foreseen in order to also have access to group lessons in gymnasiums, to attend cultural and sporting events and also to travel by boat or plane.
Phase two of Portugal’s deconfinement will begin when 70% of the population is vaccinated, which is expected in early September.
Although they remain compulsory in closed spaces, the obligation to wear masks in the street will end.
Weddings, baptisms and other celebrations, in addition to cultural shows, will also be able to operate with up to 75% of the space’s capacity.
Public transport will no longer have capacity limits and service to the public in state services will once again be without compulsory timetable.
When 85% of Portuguese are vaccinated, which is expected in October, the country will virtually end the restrictions of the Covid era, with the end of capacity limits.
Bars and nightclubs – closed since March 2020 – will be able to resume their activities. However, it will be mandatory to present the European digital certificate, proving vaccination or a negative test for SARS-CoV-2.
During a press conference to announce the measures, the Portuguese Prime Minister celebrated the country’s vaccination rates – above the European average – and the great support of the population, including young people.
This week, the opening of the vaccine self-programming for young people over the age of 18 was so popular that it brought down the internet platform. In various parts of the country there are queues to get time for doses.
Although the reopening plan was presented two days after a big meeting between experts and politicians from Infarmed (National Authority for Medicines and Health Products), the development of the strategy has sparked some complaints.
The president of the Portuguese Medical Association, Miguel Guimarães, said his organization had not been invited to the meeting and said there were difficulties in communicating with the Ministry of Health.
Guimarães also criticized the strategy of communicating the epidemiological situation during the meeting, which was followed live on the Internet and on television by many Portuguese.
“Honestly, we continue to fail, because communication is not easy to understand. I myself had difficulty understanding the measures that were proposed,” Guimarães said, in an interview with the Portuguese Association of the foreign press last Wednesday (29).
After being touted as a good example of a pandemic, Portugal saw the situation spiral out of control in January, with a widespread increase in cases and deaths. With its healthcare system strained and on the brink of collapse, the country has even turned to other members of the European Union for help.
The situation was controlled with restrictive confinement, which lasted for about two and a half months. The reopening process, which began in April, ended up being interrupted by the increase in cases caused by the spread of the delta variant, first identified in India.
Currently, the country has around 95% of cases caused by this strain.
Since the start of the pandemic, Portugal, which has a population of around 10.3 million, has recorded more than 966,000 cases and 17,330 deaths from Covid-19.