Portugal considering virus declaration

Catarina Demony
·2-min read

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa is pondering a state of emergency as coronavirus infections soar in Portugal.

Hours after Prime Minister Antonio Costa asked him to make a declaration on Monday, Rebelo de Sousa told RTP Television he was considering it.

He explained it would include specific restrictions but not a "total or nearly total" lockdown.

Portugal, with just over 10 million people, has recorded 146,847 cases and 2590 deaths from COVID-19.

However daily new cases reached 4656 on Friday, the highest since the pandemic began. Testing has also increased.

The initial COVID-19 state of emergency, which under Portuguese law is limited to 15 days but can be extended indefinitely in 15-day periods, was declared in March and lasted six weeks.

It restricted the movement of people and led thousands of businesses to suspend activities, devastating the once-bailed-out economy.

"The economy cannot handle a (total) confinement," Rebelo de Sousa said during the interview at his official residence.

"What is being considered is a different thing."

If Rebelo de Sousa triggers the declaration, MPs must then approve it, which is considered highly likely.

On Saturday, the government introduced a recommendation rather than a rule to stay at home except for outings for work, school or shopping across 121 municipalities including in key regions Lisbon and Porto.

A state of emergency would clear the way for compulsory measures such as restrictions on movement of people but only if and when needed.

"It is a critical moment and declaring the ... emergency will reinforce the civic awareness of the sanitary emergency we are facing," Costa told reporters earlier on Monday, adding the emergency would not be as sweeping as in March but that a nightly curfew could be implemented if deemed necessary.

The emergency would "eliminate legal doubts" regarding measures the government might have to adopt, Costa said.