October has been a record breaking month for new infections in Portugal, the highest number of newly infected (at the time of going to press) was registered on 28 October, with 3,960 new cases, more than doubling any other number registered between March and September. This new increase might bring more new restrictions with it than previously thought, as the Prime Minister, António Costa, is calling for “immediate action”.

Ban on movement between municipalities
The government has announced a ban on movement between municipalities from 00:00 on 30 October until 6am on 3 November. The prohibition does not apply “to journeys for the purpose of professional or similar activities, provided that: a declaration is provided if the journey takes place between municipalities bordering on the place of habitual residence or in the same Metropolitan Area” or if you are “carrying a declaration from the employer” if you work in a place other than your place of residence.

The restriction on travel between municipalities also does not apply to health professionals and other workers in health and social support institutions, as well as to teaching and non-teaching staff in school establishments, civil protection agents, security forces and services, military, militarised and civilian staff of the Armed Forces and inspectors of the Food and Economic Security Authority.

It also does not apply to the movement of minors and their accompanying persons to schools, kindergartens and leisure activities, or to the movement of students to institutions of higher education or other schools.

The restriction also does not apply to journeys for participation in procedural acts before judicial bodies or in acts for which notaries, lawyers, solicitors, registrars and registry officers are competent, as well as for attendance at public services, provided that they are accompanied by proof of their respective scheduling, departure from continental national territory and journeys by non-resident citizens to places of proven stay.

There are also no restrictions on trips to attend cultural shows, if the trip takes place between municipalities bordering the usual residence or in the same Metropolitan Area and provided they have the respective ticket and return to the usual residence.

Thus, only workers who work outside the metropolitan areas of Lisbon and Porto or who do not work in a municipality bordering their home need to have a declaration signed by their employer.
The land border between Spain and Portugal is to remain open, but non-residents should only and exclusively come to Portugal for work, health care and study if necessary.

Mandatory use of masks in public spaces
Parliament approved the mandatory use of masks to access or stay in public spaces and roads from 28 Ocotber, “whenever the physical distance recommended by health authorities proves impractical”. The measure will be in force for 70 days, and may be renewed.

The rule will apply to everyone over the age of ten, although there are exemptions from the rules for “people who are part of the same family, when they are not in the proximity of third parties” or upon presentation of a multi-purpose medical certificate or declaration attesting that a clinical condition does not allow the use of masks. It is also not mandatory to wear a mask when “it is incompatible with the nature of the activities that people are doing”.

The inspection “is the responsibility of the security forces and the municipal police” and failure to use a mask constitutes as an infraction, punishable with a fine between €100 and €500.

Can we expect more restrictions?
On 28 October, the president of the Metropolitan Area of Porto said that he wanted the government to decree a state of emergency, generalising measures to combat Covid-19 “in the whole country” in a “coherent and homogeneous” way.

“At the moment it is difficult to defend anything other than the State of Emergency. There must be legal and judicial coverage to take essential measures. This cannot be solved by miraculous measures. Measures in specific municipalities are not feasible. We have regional interdependencies and daily commuting,” said Eduardo Vítor Rodrigues

He defended changes in the communication on Covid-19, recalling that “people are exhausted from having information that is sometimes contradictory”.

“We need more targeted communication, more accurate information,” he said.

Demanding that companies increase the time gaps between entry and exit, to weigh up the timetables of the street commerce and shopping centres, and to close universities and secondary schools for “at least 15 days”, in order to “remove young people from public transport and the public highway”, are some of the measures that the Mayor of Gaia says are “urgent”.

To Lusa, Eduardo Vítor Rodrigues added the idea of asking sports clubs to suspend training activities for 15 days, because “it is not worth closing schools and introducing distance learning if then parents, kids and coaches train together,” he said, adding that he also wants to decree a curfew for certain districts.

The Prime Minister, António Costa has scheduled meetings with the parties for Friday, 30 October, and called an extraordinary Council of Ministers for Saturday, 31 October, to define new “immediate actions” to control the Covid-19 pandemic in Portugal.

Given the evolution of the pandemic in Portugal in recent weeks, Health Minister Marta Temido and the Minister of State and Presidency, Mariana Vieira da Silva, are already hearing a number of epidemiologists.

In addition to meetings with parties with parliamentary representation and the extraordinary Council of Ministers, the Minister of State for the Economy and Digital Transition, Pedro Siza Vieira, is listening to social partners.

Also in the context of the fight against Covid-19, the Prime Minister was due to take part in an extraordinary European Council by video conference on Thursday evening, 29 October, to seek a coordinated response at European level.

At the time of going to press, these meetings had not yet been held. For regular updates please visit our website www.theportugalnews.com