"The Council of Ministers approved raising the alert level to the level of calamity as of December 1, so that we are qualified with the necessary legal framework to be able to adopt the appropriate measures that are proportional to the risk", said António Costa at the press conference at the end of the Council of Ministers meeting in which new measures to contain the pandemic were decided.
Mainland Portugal returns to the calamity situation for the second time this year, after having been at this level between May 1 and September 30.
The disaster situation is the highest level of response to disaster situations provided for in the Basic Civil Protection Law, after the alert and contingency situation.
Why the change in rules?
António Costa, explained that new measures are needed due to the pandemic because, despite high levels of the vaccination and being in a better situation better than other countries in general in Europe, the country "is not doing so well".
At a press conference, António Costa stated that the worsening situation has resulted in the increase in hospitalisations and deaths, what he “regretted”.
For this reason, António Costa considered that the time had come to adopt “new measures” involving citizens, families, companies and all entities in the public sector.
THE NEW RULES FOR PORTUGAL
Remote work mandatory between 2 and 9 January
Remote working is once again being recommended, however it will be mandatory between January 2nd and 9th, the week after Christmas and the end of the year festivities.
"Whenever possible, telecommuting is recommended to avoid excessive contacts that could aggravate the pandemic situation", said the prime minister.
Entry into bars and clubs subject to negative test
Entrance to nightclubs and bars will be subject to the presentation of a negative Covid-19 test, even for those who have been vaccinated, from December 1, with clubs to be closed between January 2nd and 9th.
Entrance to bars with dance spaces and clubs, which opened on October 1 after closing for about 19 months due to the pandemic, was until now limited to the presentation of the digital certificate, which could be related to vaccination, recovery or performance of negative test.
The closing of the clubs takes place in the so-called “contact contention week”, said the prime minister.
Mandatory use of mask in all enclosed spaces
The use of masks will once again be mandatory in all closed spaces as part of the reinforcement of measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Masks are now mandatory in all closed spaces that are not excepted by the Directorate-General for health", announced António Costa.
According to the prime minister, the measure is one of the three main instruments to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, along with the reinforcement of testing and the use of digital certificates.
Mandatory test for entry into sporting venues
The presentation of a negative test at entry will become mandatory in sports venues.
Even vaccinated people will have to present a negative test to access sports venues, according to the prime minister.
At the moment, sporting events do not have a limit of spectators and it was only necessary to present a vaccination certificate or a negative test.
Vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 from 20 December
Vaccines against Covid-19 for children between five and 11 years old, if the inoculation has the approval of the technical commission for vaccination, will arrive in Portugal from December 20.
António Costa said that the government already has the supply of pediatric vaccines contracted with the pharmaceutical company Pfizer and that it guarantees coverage for more than 600,000 children in this age group.
“We will be prepared to vaccinate the 637,907 children who are eligible, and the supply schedule has already been contracted with Pfizer, which will begin arriving in Portugal on December 20, with a view to guaranteeing the necessary supply of pediatric vaccines – which are different. On December 20, the arrival of the first batch of 300,000 vaccines is scheduled and during the month of January another 462,000 will arrive”, he said.
The prime minister stressed that this measure still needs validation by the Technical Vaccination Commission "next week", although he reiterated the importance of the "necessary conditions" for this process in place, recalling the recommendation of the European Medicines Agency (EMA ).
António Costa also clarified that the eventual vaccination of children must respect “the parents' wishes” and result from an “informed dialogue” between parents and doctors.
Classes to resume on January 10 after Christmas break
Classes will resume on January 10 after the Christmas break to contain the increase in the number of Covid-19 cases.
“We introduced a slight change in the school calendar, postponing the reopening of the beginning of the second period to January 10”, said António Costa.
The prime minister added that these five days will be made up for "with the reduction of two days of interruption at Carnival and three days of interruption at Easter".
The head of Government explained that this “week of containment [from 2nd to 9th January] aims to ensure that after a period of intense contact and family life, the mixing of people from different households is avoided”.
Digital certificate required for access to restaurants and hotels
The Covid-19 digital vaccine certificate will once again be mandatory for access to restaurants, tourist establishments and local accommodation from December 1.
According to the prime minister, the certificate "is universal today" since 87 percent of the population is vaccinated against Covid-19, contrary to what was previously verified and constitutes a "security" measure and not a "barrier".
"It is essential that people feel safe going to a restaurant, shopping, participating in normal life. The [digital] certificate is not a barrier, on the contrary, it is a guarantee of safety," said António Costa in response to journalists.
The digital certificate is also required at the entrance of gyms and certain events.