João Matos Fernandes was speaking at the end of the Council of Ministers (CM) dedicated to forests, which was chaired by the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, at the invitation of the Prime Minister, António Costa, which took place in Monsanto, in Lisbon.

According to the minister, although the issue of clearing undergrowth by owners was not discussed or approved, the proposal, which "will be on the table at the next CM "is to transfer the date of 15 March to 15 May, in what is the responsibility of individuals, and municipalities then until the end of May.

"This naturally results from the greater difficulty in terms of the pandemic, but above all [because] we are in a position to be able to do so. The abundant rains in February mean that the land has a lot of water, there is a lot of moisture in the soil and therefore we do not estimate any increased risk," said Matos Fernandes.

According to the State Budget law for 2021, the works for the implementation of fuel management strips against wildfires, in a 50-metre strip around dwellings and other buildings and a 100-metre strip around settlements, camping parks and industrial zones, "must take place by 15 March".

In 2020, the deadline of "by 15 March" was extended, twice, by the Government, although already after the end of the initial date. First, on 2 April to 30 April and then on 2 May to 31 May, as part of the exceptional and temporary measures relating to the pandemic of the Covid-19 disease.

With this decision, the Government intended to "create better conditions" so that people could fulfil this obligation, "taking into account the strong limitations of circulation" due to the general confinement.

According to the law, in the event of owners failing to meet the deadline for clearing land, municipal councils have until 31 May to ensure that all fuel management works are carried out, "by means of communication and, in the absence of a response within five days, by a notice to be posted at the location of the works".

The total value of fines imposed in 2020 for non-compliance was €2.96 million (€2,966,160), falling short of the record in 2019, which accounted for €3.72 million (€3,720,600), with 8,047 administrative offences, of which 6,933 to individuals and 1,114 to legal entities, according to GNR data.