The Portuguese government on Thursday approved a roadmap to relax pandemic restrictions over the next month, starting with the reopening of small shops, hairdressers, beauty salons, car showrooms and bookstores on Monday.
“This is the start of a long process, it’s not the return to our normal community life,” Economy Minister Pedro Siza Vieira told parliament. “When we leave the house, we have to be prepared to protect ourselves and protect others.”
As of Thursday evening, Portugal had recorded 25,045 cases and 989 deaths — one of Western Europe’s few success stories on managing the virus. By starting the reopening with stores with less than 200 square meters, the government is hoping to revive neighborhood businesses without triggering large gatherings or travel.
If the number of new COVID-19 infections continues to decline, a second stage of the reopening will begin in the second half of May. It will cover larger stores up to 400 square meters, crèches, classes for senior high school students, cafes and restaurants.
Larger stores, shopping malls, pre-school classes, gymnasiums, cinemas and bars are set to open June 1, if the evolution of the disease allows. Major league football is also due to resume in early June.
In all cases, reopened businesses will face restrictions limiting the number of people allowed into establishments and mandating barriers between staff and customers. Restaurants will only be able to use half their seats, Siza Vieira said.
Masks will be obligatory on public transport and in businesses open to the public. Where possible telework should continue.
The plan is expected to be approved by parliament later on Thursday.
A state of emergency imposed six weeks ago will expire midnight Saturday. Instead, the government will introduce a “state of public calamity,” which is less strict but gives the authorities a legal framework to continue to impose restrictions on free movement, assembly and other constitutional rights.
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