1.2 Physical distancing
Following the end of the State of Emergency (18 March-2 May), the Situation of Calamity was declared by the government (https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/132883344). The government determined, like during the State of Emergency, mandatory confinement for all COVID-19 patients and all those isolated according to health authorities’ assessment is maintained. For the rest of the citizens the civic duty of home confinement applies. Besides the activities allowed during the State of Emergency, citizens can now circulate in public roads and spaces to go to libraries, fishing, or visit zoos. Additionally, stores with less than 200 sq meters are allowed to open doors, under strict measures, including assuring physical distancing of costumers and adequate cleaning and hygiene. The government has defined 1 person per 20 sq meters as the limit for maximum capacity in those stores.
The use of face masks has been made mandatory for all citizens closed public settings, including stores, public services or public transportation, unless its use is not feasible due to the nature of the activity (for example, people who need oral treatments by dentists) (https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/132883356).
On 30 April, the government announced publicly the calendar and the conditions for lifting some containment measures (https://www.portugal.gov.pt/pt/gc22/comunicacao/documento?i=plano-de-desconfinamento). The calendar includes a number of measures in several sectors to be revised every two weeks. All sectors must adopt the necessary measures to ensure physical distancing by reducing their maximum capacity, and adequate cleaning, hygiene and ventilation.
- Maximum capacity of 2/3
- Working from home is mandatory for all those who can
- Local stores until 200 sq meters, including hairdressers
- Bookstores and car businesses, irrespective of the area
- Proximity public services, including finance offices, social security offices and civil registries
- Libraries and archives
- Open air physical activity
- Stores until 400 sq meters
- Restaurants, cafes and bakeries
- Museums, palaces and monuments
Education and social sector
- Nurseries, secondary schools (for 11th and 12th grades only) and day care for people with disabilities
- Working from home partially
- Reorganization of schedules
- Stores larger than 400 sq meters or inside shopping malls
- Cinemas, theatres, concert halls
Education and social sector
- Pre-school and day care for children
- 1st League and Portugal coup (football), without audience (from 3 June)
- Gyms and individuals sports without proximity
Religion (from 30/31 May)
- Religious celebrations
Additionally, on May 4, universities restart some on-site activities and dentists are allowed to reopen their offices, under very strict rules defined by the Directorate-General of Health (https://www.dgs.pt/directrizes-da-dgs/orientacoes-e-circulares-informativas/orientacao-n-0222020-de-01052020-pdf.aspx).
Specific legislation was approved every two weeks regarding the measures to reopen all sectors of activity, following technical meetings with public health specialists and epidemiologists, with the participation of the President, the Prime-Minister, members of the government, members of the Council of State, political parties in parliament, among others.
The epidemiological situation in the Lisbon and the Tagus Valley health region, particularly in the Metropolitan Area of Lisbon has raised concern, and specific measures were taken to delay the reopening of some activities and maintaining some restrictions (https://dre.pt/web/guest/pesquisa/-/search/134889278/details/maximized). As several outbreaks related to parties and social gatherings were identified, particularly in the Lisbon Area, the Council of Ministers declared three different situations in Continental Portugal, with effect from July 1 (https://dre.pt/web/guest/pesquisa/-/search/136788888/details/maximized):
- Situation of Alert, in most of the territory: confinement for COVID-19 patients and people under surveillance by health authorities is mandatory, drinking alcohol in the street is forbidden, and gatherings are limited to a maximum of 20 persons;
- Situation of Contingency, in the Metropolitan Area of Lisbon: same rules as the State of apply, with some additional rules, including all shops closing by 8pm (with exception of supermarkets, petrol stations, clinics, pharmacies and gyms), prohibition of selling alcohol in petrol stations, and limiting gatherings to a maximum of 10 persons;
- Situation of Calamity, in 19 parishes of 5 municipalities (https://covid19estamoson.gov.pt/plano-desconfinamento-medidas-gerais/medidas-de-mitigacao-01-07-a-14-07/): same rules as under the Contingency State, with some additional rules, including civic duty of confinement, prohibition of road markets, and limiting gatherings to a maximum of 5 persons.
The government also approved fines for those who do not respect the rules determined by this new legislation: those can range from 100 to 500 Euros for individuals and from 1,000 to 5,000 Euros for companies or establishments. The health sector, the Police and the Social Security will strengthen their cooperation in order to assure that those under mandatory confinement are following the decisions of health authorities.
A Cabinet to Suppress COVID-19 in the Lisbon and the Tagus Valley Region was created in June 9 (https://dre.pt/web/guest/pesquisa/-/search/136167763/details/maximized) with the aim of coordinating and monitoring the public health response to the active outbreaks in the Metropolitan Area of Lisbon, particularly in the municipalities of Lisbon, Loures, Amadora, Odivelas and Sintra.
As the epidemiological situation in the Lisbon and the Tagus Valley Region improved, the government lifted the situation of calamity for the 19 parishes and currently the Lisbon Metropolitan Area is under the situation of contingency, while the rest of mainland Portugal is under the situation of alert (https://dre.pt/home/-/dre/139207969/details/maximized).
and check whether other countries have some successful experiences on this regard that they could share with you.
Physical distancing measures were first implemented in early March in Portugal, as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases started to increase in the country. The first confirmed cases in Portugal were identified on 2 March.
Firstly, the government approved legislation on social protection of workers who had to self-isolate or assist family members in those conditions (https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/129843866; https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/130070747). This legislation was published before the closing of all educational institutions, which was announced on 12 March, with effect on 16 March. All employers were also advised to adopt telecommuting when possible, so that most workers could be sent home.
On10 March, the Directorate-General of Health recommended all mass gatherings with more than 100 participants to be postponed or cancelled, as well as all events that could not assure social distancing between participants and events with participants that come from or were visiting areas with active community transmission of COVID-19 (https://www.dgs.pt/directrizes-da-dgs/orientacoes-e-circulares-informativas/orientacao-n-0072020-de-10032020-pdf.aspx). On that day, the government also suspended flights to and from the most affected areas in Italy (https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/130114105).
These measures were further strengthened on 13 March, when the Council of Ministers declared a “State of Alert” in the country, with effect on 16 March. Consequently, a package of measures was adopted (https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/130243053), which included:
• Banning access to restaurants or bars with dance floors;
• Restricted access to restaurants or bars up until 1/3 of maximum capacity and only until 9pm;
• Banning all school trips;
• Suspending all on-site educational activities, as well as all leisure activities and day care centres.
Since social distancing was strongly recommended, visits to nursing homes, long-term care facilities and prisons were discouraged. The Portuguese Episcopal Conference also announced on 13 March the suspension of all religious gatherings, including liturgical celebrations and other reunions.
On 18 March, the Parliament approved the Presidential Decree declaring a State of Emergency (https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/130399862), which was followed by specific legislation approved by the government (https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/130473161). The Government Decree established mandatory confinement for all COVID-19 patients and all those isolated according to health authorities’ assessment (https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/130473161). (See also section 1.3 on Isolation and quarantine).
Additionally, those aged 70 years and older, immunocompromised patients and people with chronic conditions (including hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer or chronic respiratory diseases) are subject to a special duty of protection. The latter, can only circulate in public roads and spaces under special circumstances, namely for the acquisition of goods and services, health care provision or pet walking (https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/130473161).
For all the other citizens, besides acquiring goods and services, health care provision or pet walking, a number of exceptions are in place, including: going to work and returning home (if working from home is not possible), visiting vulnerable people who need help, volunteering, short walks, open-air physical exercise (as long as it is not collective), family reasons, judicial reasons, going to the bank or to the post office, etc. (https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/130473161).
Restaurants, pubs and cafes were ordered to close for all activities except for takeaway food sales. Supermarkets, pharmacies, bakeries, petrol stations and banks will remain open but must implement capacity restrictions.
On April 2, under the review of the State of Emergency, the government has determined that citizens cannot circulate outside of the municipality where they live between 9 and 13 April (Easter period), except for very urgent reasons (https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/131068124). The State of Emergency was further extended on 17 April, lasting until 2 May (https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/131908499), with similar restrictions being implemented during the holiday of 1st May.