Portugal today extended the state of emergency that has been in force since March 19 with new, more restrictive measures, to face the impact of the coronavirus, which has already caused 209 deaths and more than 9,000 infected in the country.
The decree, which comes into force at midnight and will last until the 17th, expands the powers of the Government, which may limit layoffs, reorganize toilets and even modify the school calendar.
Both the Portuguese Prime Minister, the socialist António Costa, and the President of the Republic, the conservative Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, have appealed to the responsibility of their compatriots to stop the expansion in April, a “decisive” month.
“We will only win if we do not let our guard down,” the Portuguese president said today, stressing that “life and health require that the economy not stop.”
“It is the greatest challenge in our democratic history,” added Rebelo de Sousa.
The decisions announced today are also intended to limit movements during Easter to avoid massive contagion.
In addition to ordering the Portuguese to stay home, telework and paralyze non-essential activities, the Government has approved the following measures:
All national airports will be closed to passenger traffic between midnight on Thursday, April 9 and midnight on Monday, April 13, to avoid entry and exit to Portuguese territory during the Easter holiday period.
The capacity of flights to ensure a safe distance between passengers will also be limited to one third.
During the five days of Easter holidays, all trips outside the municipality of habitual residence will be prohibited, except for those made to go to work.
Workers must justify their movements to the security forces with a statement from the employer and citizens who fail to comply with this restriction will commit a crime of disobedience.
Meetings of more than five people, with the exception of large families, are also prohibited.
The Working Conditions Authority will be reinforced with inspectors from other areas and will have powers to annul the dismissals “with overt indications of illegality.”
To prevent the pandemic inside prisons and protect prisoners and workers, prison terms of less than two years or the last two years of sentence may be partially forgiven, provided that serious crimes (such as homicide, rape, abuse) have not been committed of minors, domestic violence and others).
Nor does it apply to crimes committed by politicians, members of the security forces or magistrates.
In all these cases, inmates must be confined to their home and if they re-offend they will be sent back to prison.
The process of presidential pardons for humanitarian reasons will be streamlined and permits may be authorized for periods of 45 days, which may be followed by parole for good behavior.
All Covid-19 patients are exempt from paying copay fees in public health.
Apart from the decree, Parliament today approved a government law proposal that suspends the payment of rents during the state of emergency for families and commercial establishments that register a fall in their income and that prevents owners from rescinding contracts in this period.