"This means that the measures that the Regional Government has now adopted, following the Council of Government, are legally based not on the President of the Republic's state of emergency decree, as happened until now, but on other legal diplomas, at the level of Civil Protection and public health, which allow restrictive intervention of rights", said Clélio Meneses at a press conference in Angra do Heroísmo.
The island of São Miguel remains subject to the measures of high risk of transmission and, therefore, will pass to the situation of public calamity, according to the Legal Regime of the Azores Civil Protection System, and the remaining islands remain at very low risk, staying in a situation of alert (the lowest of three levels).
Restaurants and cafes will therefore remain closed on the island of Sao Miguel, with traffic on public roads prohibited between 8pm local time (9pm Lisbon time) and 5am (6am Lisbon time) during the week and between 3pm (4pm Lisbon time) and 5am (6am Lisbon time) at the weekend, among other measures.
The only changes planned for next week are the resumption of face-to-face teaching in the first and second years of education and in subjects subject to national exams in the 11th and 12th years on the island of São Miguel.
The state of emergency will end on Friday, 30 April, and it will no longer be compulsory to test for the new coronavirus before embarking for the Azores or when leaving São Miguel for another island, but it will be compulsory upon arrival.
According to Clélio Meneses, the Legal Regime of the Azores Civil Protection System, the Basic Health Law and the Legal Regime of the Public Health Authority support the measures taken, but the Azorean executive is already preparing a draft bill to clarify these powers.
"If there is a health law of the Assembly of the Republic, which determines the means of intervention and restriction of rights, all this may become clearer. If this health law does not come from the Republic, the Regional Government is preparing a draft bill to present to the Legislative Assembly of the Azores Autonomous Region, with a request for a waiver of examination in committee and urgency," he said.
The regional health secretary, who is also a lawyer, admitted that there may be some "legal arguments about one situation or another", but considered that the existing legislation supports the measures in place.
"For example, article 12 of the Legal Regime of Civil Protection, in its number 2, paragraph b, establishes that the declaration of public calamity may determine the establishment, for reasons of safety of the people or of operations, of limits or limitations to the circulation or permanence of people", he pointed out.
The Legal Regime of the Health Authority determines, according to Clélio Meneses, that the Health Authority can "promote health investigation and epidemiological surveillance", "monitor the health level of population centres, services, establishments and places of public use" and "determine the necessary corrective measures for the defence of public health".
It can also, he added, "order the suspension of activities or the closure of services, establishments and places", "exercise health surveillance at borders" and "determine the suspension of work and closure of premises".