Feb 21

Portugal extends COVID-19 emergency, end of lockdown in sight

Mar 11, 2021
LISBON (Reuters) – The Portuguese parliament on Thursday approved a 15-day extension of a state of emergency until the end of March as the government geared up to unveil a long-awaited plan to gradually lift strict lockdown rules in place since mid-January.
Under the lockdown implemented on Jan. 15 to tackle what was then the world’s worst surge of coronavirus cases and deaths, all non-essential services and schools were shut, with people urged to stay home across Portugal.
The situation brought the country’s fragile health service to its knees but has significantly improved since then, with daily figures dropping sharply.
Portugal, a nation of just over 10 million, reported 627 new cases and 18 deaths on Thursday, bringing the total to 812,575 and 16,635 respectively.
The plan to ease the lockdown will be announced by the government later on Thursday and is expected to slowly open up different services and allow certain activities depending on the pandemic situation in each region.
Economy Minister Pedro Siza Vieira said on Wednesday some sectors could be given the green light to reopen before Easter, with local news agency Lusa reporting kindergartens and pre-schools could reopen as soon as next week.
Broadcaster SIC said the government was also evaluating if hairdressers and bookshops could open their doors next week. Controls on the land border with Spain are likely to remain in place until Easter.
In a presidential decree, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said that although the “situation was evolving favourably… external signs remained complex, imposing caution about the steps to be taken in the near future”.
No crisis in recent history has hit Portugal’s tourism-dependent economy as hard, with the country’s gross domestic product shrinking 7.6% last year, its biggest annual slump since 1936.
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