Policy responses for Portugal - HSRM


Policy responses for Portugal

6. Measures in other sectors

6.1 Measures in other sectors

Many MEASURES IN OTHER SECTORS beyond the immediate scope of the health system are being taken to prevent further spread of the virus. This section contains information on many of these areas, including border and travel restrictions and economic and fiscal measures, among others.

Since 16 March at 11pm, the control of people was re-established within Portugal’s internal borders, with nine border posts (https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/130326108). This measure will last until 15 April at midnight, but can be reviewed every ten days.
No national lockdown is in place. However, local lockdowns were implemented:
• between 18 March and 18 April, in a municipality in the Centre Region (Ovar) by the central government (https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/130413790);
• between 3 April and 3 May, in all six municipalities of the island of Sao Miguel (where the capital Ponta Delgada is located), by the Government of the Autonomous Region of Azores (https://jo.azores.gov.pt/#/ato/93f0a34a-4b53-4aa3-af7a-b3fdeb52c306). Only one municipality (Nordeste) was locked down until 18 May.

Mobility (transport)
Aside from the suspension of commercial flights to and from Italy, which was implemented on 11 March, commercial flights to and from Spain were suspended on 16 March, as well as railway connections between the two countries, except for goods (https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/130326108).   Commercial flights to and from outside the European Union have been suspended since 19 March, with the exception of flights to and from (https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/130376669):
• the Schengen space;
• Portuguese speaking countries (but only flights to and from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, are allowed);
• UK, USA, Venezuela Canada and South Africa, due to the large Portuguese communities living there.

Road circulation is forbidden in internal land borders with the exception of international transport of goods, transportation of cross-border workers and circulation of emergency vehicles. Docking of recreational vessels and disembarkation of passengers and crews of cruise ships in national harbours is prohibited, except for Portuguese citizens and residents in Portugal.  On 2 April, 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).
Since the declaration of the State of Emergency on 2 April, internal travel is limited to the exceptions foreseen in the law (https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/131068124). Public transport is still operating but with reduced service and capacity restrictions (https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/130376669).
Travel related information and relevant updates by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can be found at: https://www.portaldascomunidades.mne.pt/pt/.

Flights with the UK were suspended from January 22, although they were already suspended from the UK in early January.

The government adopted a major aid package for the economy, including loan guarantees, flexibility of fiscal policies and tax payments and wage compensation. Overall, the economic aid package amounts to EUR 9.2 billion (around 4.3% of GDP), including EUR 3 billion for loan guarantees, EUR 5.2 billion with fiscal measures and EUR 1 billion with payments for social security. 

The government reached an agreement with employers and unions in order to secure wage compensation and maintain employment. The agreement means that the government will cover a part of the cost of employees’ salaries at private companies as long as those companies do not fire people. Employers with significant losses, those who implemented lay-off and freelancer workers who are their own employers are eligible for a support that covers 2/3 of the worker’s gross wage up to EUR 1,333.5 per worker. Additionally, loan guarantees of up to EUR 3 billion were agreed with banks to be made available for several sectors including restaurants, tourism and travel agencies, hotels and industry.

Additional measures from the economic aid package also include postponement of VAT and other taxes, tax payment by installments, and anticipation of payment of EU funds. The measures are detailed at: https://covid19estamoson.gov.pt/medidas-de-apoio-emprego-empresas/ 

State aid
The government negotiated with banks a memorandum that lasts until September 2020 and allows persons, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), private non-profit institutions and other non-financial firms to suspend payment of instalments and extend their credit agreements for 6 months. Additionally, the Parliament approved the suspension of termination for rental contracts (whose expiry date would take place in the next months) during the State of Emergency and also the possibility to suspend the payment of rent for tenants with income loss. This measure affects not only persons but also small businesses that were forced to close or drastically reduced their activity during the State of Emergency.

After closure of all educational institutions by the end of March, many schools and universities delivered classes by distant learning methods through the use of Internet. However, for students up to the 9th grade with no internet connection or lack of computer, the Ministry of Education will use digital TV and other platforms, in partnership with the public television, to deliver educational content. This will start after the Easter holidays.

Since 21 April, SNS24 Contact Centre has launched a service for deaf persons, through a web platform that allows videocall (https://www.sns24.gov.pt/contacto-acessivel-cidadao-surdo/). This platform is also available to support health care provision in hospital or primary care settings. As of 6 October, 404 deaf citizens were helped by this service.

The government also adopted measures to ensure the safety and support to victims of domestic violence given the increased risk of violence during the confinement imposed by the State of Emergency. All services in charge of supporting, sheltering and transporting victims, provided by the National Support Network for Victims of Domestic Violence, are considered essential services and remain active. Additionally, two new emergency shelter facilities with 100 vacancies were recently opened. Besides a broad dissemination of information about support services and helplines (http://www.cig.gov.pt/2020/04/covid-19-seguranca-isolamento), the government has strengthened and diversified the channels for victims to seek help:
• A free national helpline available 24/7: 800 202 148
• An email address for victims and professionals: [email protected]
• A free and confidential SMS service (3060) so that victims can send written requests for help.

Guidance for families, children and young people was also disseminated by the National Commission for the Promotion of Rights and the Protection of Children and Young People (https://www.cnpdpcj.gov.pt/corona-virus-covid-19-como-lidar-com-a-situacao.aspx).

Responses for other vulnerable populations (including homeless people, people who inject drugs, isolated elderly and others) are being implemented locally through the cooperation of community based-organizations, municipalities, parishes and health services.

Civil protection
The State of Emergency was declared on 18 March (https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/130399862, https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/130473161) and renewed on 2 April (https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/131068124) and 17 April (https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/131908499).

Air traffic
The government has defined the rules for air traffic and airports, considering the need to minimize the risk of importing positive cases. Passengers in flights from high risk countries (defined in legislation) must hold, at departure, proof of COVID-19 test with negative result from an RT-PCR test performed within 72 hours prior to the flight departure. Portuguese citizens or those with residence permit who exceptionally do not have such proof must be conducted upon arrival to perform a COVID-19 test, at their own expenses. Temperature controls are also in place. A passenger who has a body temperature ≥ 38ºC and performs the test upon arrival, can leave the airport but must be isolated at their destination, leaving their contact details to the authorities, until the result of the test is known (https://dre.pt/home/-/dre/139207969/details/maximized). Those measures have been constantly renewed (https://dre.pt/web/guest/pesquisa/-/search/144246078/details/maximized).  

Cross-border collaboration
Portugal has been coordinating actions on its land border with Spain. On July 1, Portugal and Spain reopened their borders to circulation.