As Spain approaches the more than 13,000 deaths from
registered by Italy, in Portugal the figure stands at 246 because they began to stop the propagation spiral earlier. And the strategy of learning from the mistakes of its neighbors continues, as demonstrated by the fact that Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa and Conservative President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa have promptly given the green light to the enlargement and hardening of the state of emergency until April 17 (because the Constitution limits its validity to renewable periods of 15 days).
The objective is none other than to maintain the confinement of citizens to stop the chain of infections and avoid a scenario as Dantesque as in Milan, Bergamo and Madrid.
The spread of the virus is inevitable, but strict measures have landed to settle (for now) among the Portuguese. Much more at the gates of Easter. So Antonio Costa steps on the accelerator and fulfills his promise not to implement the entire restrictive package at once, but in progressive stages.
Although all the countries have canceled the processions and other celebrations, thousands of citizens will enjoy a few days of vacation and, in anticipation of possible displacements to Lisbon, Porto, Madeira, the Algarve or the Alentejo, the Portuguese Government has shielded the country by completely closing it airports to passenger traffic between April 9 and 13. Outside this time frame, airlines must reduce by one third the sale of the number of tickets for flights that are maintained to preserve the safety distance.
The state of emergency also includes limiting layoffs, reorganizing the school calendar and modifying the health structure, while meetings of more than five people are prohibited, with the exception of large families.
With this severity, Portugal hopes to cope with moderate caution in the “decisive month”, that is, April, as recognized by Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. A key period to block the spread of the virus, although the Portuguese authorities have already warned that the worst may come in May.
“We will only win if we don’t let our guard down”
Two forceful sentences by Prime Minister Costa reflect his way of proceeding, which at least has not fallen into the mistakes of either the Spanish or the Italian Executive. Thus, ideas and words such as “we will only win if we do not let our guard down” or “it is the greatest challenge in our democratic history” resonate.
A series of inspectors will monitor that there are no dismissals with “indications of illegality” and, as for prisons, the Government is studying a kind of pardon for some 1,200 inmates (guilty of “minor” crimes) in order to alleviate the high intramural human concentrations.
The first declaration of the state of emergency was adopted on March 16 and was in force until April 2. Then, as now, it is guaranteed that “democracy will not be suspended” and that “Portugal will continue to be an open society, with democratic institutions in operation and with free and responsible citizens for themselves and for others.” .