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Masks

With more than 3000 new Covid cases and 31 deaths registered in 24 hours – according to figures by Portugal’s DGS (Directorate General of Health) – Parliament decided last Friday that face masks are going to be mandatory in public spaces across the country.

The measure – valid for the next 70 days – obliges residents over the age of 10 to wear masks outside whenever physical distancing of 2 metres can’t be guaranteed. A face shield will not do.
Rule-breaking citizens risk a fine of between 100 and 500 euros.

The decision follows an earlier set of rules – in force since October 15 – in which the entire country returned to a State of Calamity including the prohibition of gatherings in public of more than five people, family events (weddings and baptisms) limited to a maximum of 50 people and fines up to 10,000 euros for anyone breaking rules over physical distancing or numbers of people allowed to meet.

Although with a population of 10 million people, Portugal recorded a comparatively low number of cases (116,000) and deaths (2,300) so far, it is – like most European nations – forced to increase restrictions in order to tackle the second wave of COVID-19. Out of 1455 people in hospital, 221 are currently in Intensive care.

People all over Europe are facing tougher restrictions. Big cities in Italy and France encounter curfews, Greek citizens have been told to stay off the street between 12.30 pm and 05.00 am and Spain declared the State of Emergency as from today.
The Czech Republic, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Spain are currently the worst-hit nations, according to recent figures by Johns Hopkins University.

Brussels – in need of a new approach to ‘free circulation’ of their citizens – proposed last week a ‘set of criteria’ comprising the number of new infections per 100.000 inhabitants over the previous 14 days, and the number/percentage of positive tests performed per 100.000 inhabitants in the last 7 days.

These criteria can be used to define red, yellow and green zones as well as consider restrictions on free circulation. They will also serve to determine areas where people have to stay in quarantine.

The day after Parliament decided on mandatory masks in public places, hundreds of people in Lisbon protested against the measures. They shouted ‘freedom’ and carried banners saying ‘masks create distrust’ and ‘fear is not a vaccine’.


Stay safe             Fique saudável                       (pic Público/Sapo/Observ)





Release

‘As long as there is Covid , there will be no normal life’  (António Costa)

Portugal’s State of Emergency has changed into a State of Calamity as from the beginning of May and with approximately 100 deaths per million inhabitants.

This implicates that ‘the future depends on the efforts of every single citizen to make a success of the country’s return into the world of business’, according to prime minister António Costa.
In other words, social distancing and hand hygiene should remain in place.

Contrary to other European countries, Portugal rejects contact tracing. Both the president and the prime minister consider the measure to start putting citizens under permanent increased surveillance ‘unconstitutional’.

The release began on the 4th of May with the reopening of small local commerce (including opticians and dentists), bookshops, libraries, driving schools, hairdressers, beauty salons, public services and transport. All required special measures, in particular the use of masks. Not wearing one in public transport may be fined with 350 euros.

Without a spike in the number of infections, it was decided on May 18 to reopen restaurants, cafés and pastelarias (all running at 50% capacity), terraces, museums, art galleries, shops of up to 400 sq m, schools for 11th and 12th-year pupils taking national exams (with pupils and teachers wearing masks) and creches (as yet on a voluntary basis).

Other details of the State of Calamity involve a restriction on gatherings to a maximum of 10 people, funerals involving family members only (without restrictions on the number) and teleworking to be continued until June 1. The end of restrictions on ‘religious gatherings’ and resumption of the Premier Football League (without public) are scheduled for the final weekend of May.

The official beach season will start on June 6 although the country is set for a spring heatwave at the end of May. A ‘traffic-light system’ is being rolled out as a way of avoiding ‘militarised order’ on the more popular beaches Costa da Caparica, Cascais, Oeiras, Carcavelos and in the Algarve . The idea is that beachgoers adhere to the traffic lights or lose access to the beach altogether.

Sunshades (for max five persons and to be rented for half a day) have to be placed three metres from each other, the general 1.5 meter distance rule has to be respected at all times and masks are mandatory when entering beach restaurants and bars. Moreover, a new mobile phone app will carry information on supervised beaches, allowing beachgoers to plan ahead.


Stay healthy                          Fique saudável             (pic Público/Sapo)