With the country still in a state of calamity, this new plan came into force on August 1st, at a time when 57 percent of the Portuguese population already had full vaccination, more than 5.8 million people.
The second stage of the plan was scheduled for the beginning of September, coinciding with 70 percent of the population being fully vaccinated, but the good pace of mass vaccination has led the Government to anticipate the lifting of restrictions by almost two weeks.
The third and final phase is scheduled for when 85 percent of the Portuguese are fully vaccinated, a goal that could be achieved in the next few days, since, according to the report by the Directorate-General for Health on Tuesday, 83 percent of the Portuguese already have a complete vaccination.
The wave that halted easing of lockdown
Between May and July this year, Portugal witnessed a new wave in the pandemic, which threw the country into the red zone of the pandemic control risk matrix.
In view of the growing indicators of the epidemiological situation, on June 24, the Government decided that the conditions were not met to continue the easing of lockdown plan that had been gradually implemented in mainland territory since March.
"Portugal is clearly in the red zone of our matrix, so there are no conditions to continue the planned decontamination plan", said the Minister of State and Presidency, Mariana Vieira da Silva, at the end of the Council of Ministers.
At that time, the incidence of new cases of infection per 100,000 inhabitants within 14 days was 129.6 and the virus transmissibility index (Rt) was 1.18 in continental territory, with the country already facing the Delta variant, considered more transmissible and which was already responsible for 70 percent of the registered cases of infection.
Despite increasing in pace, only 32 percent of the population – about 3.2 million people – had full vaccination against Covid-19.
New plan based on vaccines
A little over a month later, on July 29, the prime minister presented the new plan to alleviate the restrictions, consisting of three phases that followed the expected pace of vaccination against covid-19.
The Government thus advanced to the first phase of the plan, which entered into force on August 1, despite the incidence rate of infections by the SARS-CoV-2 virus per 100,000 inhabitants in the previous 14 days being at 439.3 cases and Rt presents a value of 1.01, but with a decreasing trend.
At the press conference, António Costa admitted the possibility of anticipating some of the measures of this new easing of lockdown plan, if the pace of vaccination were faster, which happened in the next phase, but he also did not rule out the need to retreat if the epidemiological situation got worse.
At the end of July, Portugal had already reached 57% of the population with complete vaccination, the equivalent of about 5.8 million people who were fully immunised against the new coronavirus.
While still in a situation of calamity, as of August 1, the rules became the same throughout the continental territory, ending the application of restrictions by municipalities, according to the evolution of the pandemic in those territories.
Teleworking also went from mandatory to recommended, when work activities allowed, and the limitation of circulation on public roads from 23:00 onwards was no longer in force.
The public returned to the sports venues, in accordance with rules defined by the Directorate-General for Health (DGS), cultural shows started to receive spectators up to 66% of their capacity and bars were subject to the same rules already applied to restaurants.
With regard to the number of people per table in restaurants, the rule of a maximum of six people per table inside or 10 people on the terraces began to apply throughout the mainland.
Sanitary and public health measures were maintained (mandatory confinement, use of masks, control of body temperature and testing), as well as measures applicable to air traffic, airports and land, sea and river borders.
The requirement to present a digital certificate or a negative test for air or sea travel was applied; access to tourist establishments and local accommodation; entering restaurants on weekends and holidays; in group classes in gyms, spas and 'spas', casinos and bingos, weddings and christenings with more than 10 people, and cultural, sporting or social events.
The second phase of the easing of lockdown plan coincided with Portugal's transition from a state of calamity to a state of contingency, about two weeks before the initially set date of 5 September.
The earlier date was due to the fact that Portugal had reached 70% of the population's vaccination earlier than expected.
At that time, the number of new cases of infection per 100 thousand inhabitants was 312 and the Rt had a value of less than 1, indicating a stable downward trend nationwide.
As of August 23, the rules provided for in this second phase of the easing of lockdown plan came into force, with the exception of the end of the mandatory use of masks in public spaces, whose law was in force until September 12.
Restaurants, cafes and patisseries are now able to have up to eight people (instead of six) per group inside spaces and up to 15 people (instead of 10) per group on terraces.
Events, whether of a family nature, including weddings and baptisms, or cultural shows, now have the occupancy limit of 75%.
As for commercial spaces, the capacity increased from five to eight people for every 100 square meters (indication of physical distance of one person for every 12.5 square meters).
Collective public transport no longer has capacity limitations and in it is now possible to use the front seat.
The requirement to present a digital certificate or a negative test for air or sea travel was maintained; access to tourist establishments and local accommodation; entering restaurants on weekends and holidays; in group classes in gyms, spas and 'spas', casinos and bingos, weddings and baptisms with more than 10 people, and cultural, sporting or corporate events for more than 1,000 people (in an open environment) or 500 people (in a closed environment).
With the task force predicting that full vaccination will reach 85% next week, the government is expected to announce the entry into force of the third phase of easing of restrictions.
More than 8.5 million people already have complete vaccination against covid-19, which makes Portugal just two percentage points away from reaching the target of 85% of the population being fully vaccinated.
According to the plan, restaurants, cafes and patisseries are no longer subject to a maximum limit of people per group, either indoors or on terraces.
In addition, the capacity limits imposed so far on various cultural establishments and shows are over, as restrictions on family events, such as weddings and baptisms.
Bars and clubs will be able to reopen their usual activity, but upon presentation of the digital certificate or a negative covid-19 test by the customers.