Portugal also retraces the path despite being the country in the European Union with the largest population vaccinated with the full regimen (87%). As of December 1, the country will re-enter the “state of calamity” (the highest level of response allowed by law to catastrophic situations), which increases accessibility restrictions to closed places to try to stop the constant increase in infections (the cumulative incidence amounts to 263 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days). However, the most striking part of the package of measures presented this Thursday afternoon by the prime minister, the socialist António Costa, are those that will be decreed for the first week of January 2022, which aim to prevent “it from approaching the tragic January 2021 ″. For that week, the Government has decreed compulsory teleworking in all companies, the closure of bars and nightclubs and the suspension of the return to the classroom. In Portugal, which does not celebrate the tradition of Kings, the return of school activity was scheduled for Monday, January 3. Now it will be postponed until Monday the 10th.
The establishments will be compensated for the forced closure, according to Costa. The “week of containment”, as the prime minister has called it, will try to stop the circulation of the coronavirus after a period of intense social and family life such as the Christmas holidays. The Government has chosen to protect economic activity in a country highly dependent on tourism and not to prevent trips or celebrations, although Costa has appealed to personal responsibility and encouraged the Portuguese to take tests before their family reunions. “The Portuguese know that their own behavior controls the evolution of the pandemic, in addition to the pharmacological protection of the vaccine. Obviously when there are fewer restrictions, there is greater individual responsibility ”, said the prime minister.
The Government has weighed the memory of the nightmare lived after the December 2020 holidays, when the worst wave of mortality caused by the covid in Portugal was unleashed. Thanks to vaccination, the starting situation is not comparable, but the increase in infections, hospitalizations and deaths in recent days does not allow us to continue idly. After listening in recent days to representatives of all political parties and technicians, Costa announced this afternoon the new measures to combat the expansion of cases. This strategy rests on masks (they are once again mandatory in closed spaces), vaccination certificates (they will be required to access restaurants, hotels, events with assigned seats and gyms) and tests (necessary to enter nursing homes, hospitals and major sporting or cultural events without assigned seats).
The tests will also be a requirement for those traveling to Portugal by plane. At this point, Costa was very critical of the airlines, which he accused of not verifying whether passengers enter the country with a vaccination certificate or test. “It is an obligation of the companies that only allow the boarding of people with evidence and we have seen that they have not complied with it and that is why we are going to introduce penalties of up to 20,000 euros for each traveler disembarked without a test”, explained Costa. In serious cases, the penalty for a company could lead to the withdrawal of the flight license. “It is an act of profound irresponsibility to transport people who have not been tested. We want to keep the borders open and the activities of civil aviation, but it is their obligation to ensure the safety of those who travel ”, he reproached at the press conference after the Council of Ministers. To reinforce control at Portuguese airports, Costa has announced that they will hire private security companies to check the access of all passengers. Those who disembark without the proper certificate or test will be evacuated to their place of origin.
Costa has pointed out that the large vaccination coverage is allowing “saving lives” and causing “less serious ailments.” He compared the situation this Thursday (3,150 new infections, 691 hospitalizations, 103 ICU admissions and 15 deaths) with that registered on November 25, 2020 (5,290 cases, 3,251 hospitalizations, 517 ICU admissions and 71 deaths). “We have learned enough over these two years to know what we can do and what we must not do. So I trust that we all avoid what we should not do. It is the first condition to be able to contain this pandemic and make these measures sufficient to contain the current growth, “said the prime minister.
None of these restrictions require the approval of the Assembly of the Republic, which is still operational, but will be dissolved by the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, for the holding of elections, set on January 30. Regarding the development of the electoral campaign in the middle of the fifth wave, Costa recalled that the country has already held several elections (municipal and presidential) during the pandemic without any incidents having been registered.