Speaking at a press conference in Lisbon and surrounded by the Council of Ministers the Prime Minister outlined the majority of the situation but highlighted that further debates would be taking place tomorrow (20 March), where the agenda will focus on social support for families and companies.

António Costa explained to the country the measures taken under the state of emergency, stating that "the primary concern was to ensure maximum restraint with minimum disruption to life."

People who are infected with the coronavirus are to stay in isolation, anyone infected who leaves isolation will be regarded as a committing a crime of disobedience.

People over the age of 70, or those who are have existing health problems that make them vulnerable were described by Costa as being at “particular risk” and should only leave the house in very exceptional circumstances: for securing essential goods, going to the health center, the bank, or taking small walks for health reasons.

There will be no special hours for people who need special protection. "People over the age of 70 are asked to limit leaving the home as much as possible. They have higher risks and special protection is essential. Families, neighbours and local authorities must ensure the greatest possible support for this population."

In all other cases people are being told to “only leave the house if necessary” either for work, assisting family members, to walk pets or to secure essential goods.

Wherever possible all work should be done remotely via phone or online to avoid all face to face communications.

The Prime Minister made it clear that the state of emergency should not result in the end of the economy and said that at present normal economic activity should be maintained whenever possible, with the exception to this only being in areas declared to be in a state of calamity, as in the case of Ovar in the north of Portugal.

Bakeries, supermarkets, pharmacies, petrol stations and others defined by law are to remain open. Restaurants and cafes must be closed and take-away services can be maintained. "It is important that the restaurants continue to function where possible with take aways, to support those who will have to work," said the Prime Minister.

“There is no rationing, nor is there any justification for it, and if proper civic behavior is maintained it is out of the question. The conditions are created for production and distribution to function normally", said António Costa.

Those who have to work must comply with the rules of the DGS: social distance, the hygiene that was defined in the context of the pandemic and conditions for the protection of workers.

During the state of emergency the security forces can use repressive means and must send home whoever breaches the isolation.

Currently, security forces will keep the Ministry of Internal Affairs informed of their assessment of how these measures will be implemented. The government may apply a new sanctioning framework. But Costa believes that it should not be necessary given the way the Portuguese have reacted.

No document will be needed to circulate, said António Costa. "People have already been behaving civically and have done what has been asked of them”, so there should be no need for sanctioning measures. "

António Costa also confirmed that a crisis cabinet has been created in the government, with the Prime Minister, the Ministers of State, Health, Infrastructure, MAI and Defense.

Regarding the Portuguese abroad. António Costa says that whenever possible and if there are a large number of Portuguese, there may be repatriation operations. "We have already secured the repatriation of 408 Portuguese and we are looking to respond to all cases."

The council of ministers will meet again tomorrow at 10.15am to discuss social and economic support for families, and sectors such as trade and restaurants. "The country has not suddenly become rich but we have to meet the needs of families."

Concluding the announcements, António Costa said that the government "took particular care in the framework of the measures, with a very gradualist attitude, to ensure adequate and proportional responses”. The security forces will have a repressive function, if necessary to stop activities and establishments, but on the other hand, they will also have the function of advising everyone about the situation.


Originally from the UK, Daisy has been living and working in Portugal for more than 20 years. She has worked in PR, marketing and journalism, and has been the editor of The Portugal News since 2019. Jornalista 7920

Daisy Sampson