Coronavirus: Current Situation in Lisbon and Portugal

Europe was badly hit by COVID-19 in March, and is once again the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic.

After a period of decline in death and infection rates, Portugal is now seeing a significant rise of daily infections and has reentered a state of emergency. Many visitors are now wondering: what is the current situation and when will it be safe to travel to Lisbon and Portugal?

As of 15 January, Portugal began a new full lockdown similar to the one of March, though less strict since all schools remain open and there are more exceptions. However, non-essential shops must close, but cafés and restaurants can have takeaway, drive-through and delivery services. Supermarkets and groceries can operate a normal timetable. Hotels also remain open. The full lockdown will be in place for at least 15 days (most likely a month).

Restrictions on movement will be eased on 24 January so voters can go to the polls for the presidential election.

Prior to the full lockdown, Portugal had already entered a state of emergency, with different levels of restrictions by municipality (“concelho”), depending on local rates of infections, to try to halt the spread of coronavirus.

Restrictions for the entire country include face masks compulsory in workplaces where the physical distance cannot be maintained (in addition to crowded outdoor spaces and enclosed public spaces, already into force).

The new restrictions add to those already in place since Portugal entered a state of calamity on 15 October, and a partial lockdown came into force on 4 November with people being told to stay at home in municipalities with high rates of new infections.

Working from home is the default position for all businesses, with only those unable to do so allowed to continue going to their workplaces. However, the decision to keep schools open means parents can go out to drop their children off at school.

During the Pandemic in Portugal

By 16 March, Portugal closed all schools, limited public gatherings, banned all public events, and shuttered all non-essential stores. Many companies put employees working from home.

On 4 May, Portugal began partially easing its lockdown. Face masks became compulsory in enclosed public spaces such as public transport, supermarkets, stores, and schools.

Hairdressers and other small businesses outside shopping malls were allowed to reopen. Car dealerships and bookstores, regardless of size, were also allowed to open up.

Larger shops outside malls followed on 18 May, and cafés and restaurants opened at half capacity. Schools also returned but only for 10-12th grade students (15-18 years old).

The final stage happened on 1 June when shopping malls were permitted to open, except in the Lisbon area (reopening postponed to 15 June). Theatres at reduced capacity, kindergartens and pre-school services also returned.

Portugal’s border restrictions were extended until 1 July when frontiers reopened to Spain and the other European Union nations (Schengen zone), and restrictions on non-essential travel were lifted for six countries outside the European Union (for details see below).

On 23 June, with more young people testing positive detected in parts of Greater Lisbon, some restrictions were reimposed in the capital and outskirts, namely limiting public gatherings to 10 people and closing cafés and shops at 8pm. A total of 19 areas had to go back into lockdown from 29 June through 31 July.

Between 15 September and 14 October, the whole country was under a state of contingency. Portugal raised the alert level to state of calamity on 15 October, following a sharp rise in Covid cases, and as of 9 November Portugal reentered a state of emergency.

Here’s the full breakdown of Portugal’s lockdown exit plan as wearing a face mask becomes mandatory in enclosed public spaces as well as crowded outdoor spaces:

4 May
Restrictions lifted across Portugal on

  • Small shops (below 200sq m) outside shopping malls
  • Hairdressers and similar by appointment only
  • Car dealerships and bookstores, regardless of size
  • Gatherings of up to 10 people

18 May
Restrictions lifted across Portugal on

  • Shops (below 400sq m) outside malls
  • Indoor service in restaurants, bars and cafés at half capacity
  • Schools for 10-12th grade students
  • Museums, monuments, palaces, and art galleries, at reduced capacity

1 June
Restrictions lifted across Portugal on

  • Retail stores in malls (except in Lisbon, reopening postponed to 15 June)
  • Shops larger than 400sq m outside malls
  • Theatres at reduced capacity

23 June
Restrictions reimposed in Greater Lisbon

  • Cafés and shops must close at 8pm
    (but restaurants may still have dine-in and takeaway services after 8pm)
  • Public gatherings limited 10 people

29 June through 31 July
19 areas in Greater Lisbon (excluding downtown Lisbon) go back to lockdown

  • Localised lockdown in parts of Greater Lisbon
    Those suburbs are Amadora, Odivelas, some areas of Loures and Sintra, and one civil parish in Lisbon (Santa Clara). People living in the affected areas are allowed to leave home only to buy essential goods, and to travel to and from work.

1 July

  • Frontiers reopen to Spain and the other EU nations (Schengen zone), and restrictions on non-essential travel are lifted for the following 6 countries outside the EU: Algeria, Canada, Morocco, South Korea, Tunisia, and China, subject to confirmation of reciprocity
  • Exceptions set down for travel from Portuguese-speaking countries and countries outside the EU with large communities of Portuguese immigrants

15 September through 14 October
State of contingency

  • Gatherings limited to 10 people
  • Commercial establishments (other than restaurants) must close between 8pm and 11pm

15 October
State of calamity

  • Gatherings limited to 5 people
  • Face masks compulsory in enclosed public spaces and crowded outdoor spaces
  • Weddings and baptisms with a maximum of 50 guests (but university parties banned)

30 October through 3 November

  • Residents banned from travelling between municipalities (“concelhos”) except for working or going to school (tourists can also move)

4 November
Partial lockdown in most of the country (121 municipalities, including the region of Lisbon and Porto – to be reviewed in two weeks’ time)

  • People should work remotely where possible, but schools remain open
  • Non-essential shops close at 10pm
  • Restaurants close at 10.30pm with a limit of 6 customers per table

9 November through 14 January
State of emergency with different restrictions across municipalities, depending on local rates of new infections (measures add to those put in place on 4 November)

All

  • Face masks compulsory in workplaces where the physical distance cannot be maintained, in addition to crowded outdoor spaces and enclosed public spaces
  • Schools and public services closed on 30 November and 7 December
  • Ban on travel across municipalities between 27 November, 11pm – 2 December, 5am, and 4 December, 11pm – 8 December, 5am

Municipalities with high rates of new infections, including the region of Lisbon and Porto

  • Overnight curfew from 11pm to 5am (except 24 and 25 December)
  • Curfew from 1pm to 5am for the next December weekends (Saturday and Sunday), holidays (Tuesday 1 and 8 December), and the first days of the new year (1, 2 and 3 January)
  • On 30 November and 7 December (Monday), shops should close at 3pm

Christmas and New Year’s Eve rules

  • 23, 24, 25 and 26 December: people allowed to travel across municipalities
  • Restaurants allowed to serve Christmas dinners until 1am on 24 and 25 December, and lunches until 3.30pm on 26 December
  • 31 December to 4 January: travel ban across municipalities
  • 31 December: everyone must be home by 11pm
  • 1, 2 and 3 January: curfew from 1pm to 5am

15 January
Full lockdown

  • Non-essential shops closed, but cafés and restaurants can have takeaway, drive-through and delivery services
  • Supermarkets and groceries operate a normal timetable
  • Hotels remain open
  • Remote working compulsory where possible
  • All schools remain open
  • Restrictions on movement eased on 24 January for the presidential election
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