Coronavirus: Current Situation in Lisbon and Portugal

Europe was badly hit by Covid-19 last year, and during the colder months became once again the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this year, Portugal began a new full lockdown on 15 January, several times extended, which lasted until March. But with coronavirus cases and deaths falling, schools, non-essential shops, shopping malls, cafés and restaurants began reopening in mid-March.

Many visitors are now wondering: what is the current situation and when will it be safe to travel to Lisbon and Portugal?

The government defined a plan for easing restrictions in Portugal during the summer, but had to halt its final stage, which was due on 28 June, after a spike in new Covid-19 cases, witnessed mainly in the region of Lisbon but now spreading to the rest of the country. The government said more time is needed to speed up the vaccination program, while new measures come into force in July 2021.

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Only a digital covid certificate or a negative test now grants access to hotels and other holiday accommodation like Airbnbs. Children under 12 accompanied by a parent or guardian are exempt. Rapid antigen and PCR tests as well as fast tests provided by hotels at check-in are accepted. The rule applies to the entire country.

General restrictions also include face masks compulsory in enclosed public spaces, for example while shopping or using public transport, as well as in crowded outdoor spaces.

Moreover, a digital covid certificate or a negative test is also required to eat indoors at restaurants but only on Friday evenings and at weekends and holidays in high-risk municipalities (“concelhos”), including Lisbon, Porto and the popular tourist town of Albufeira in the sunny Algarve. A night-time curfew from 11pm to 5am is already in place in these high-risk municipalities.

33 municipalities are deemed very high-risk: Albufeira, Alcochete, Almada, Amadora, Arruda dos Vinhos, Avis, Barreiro, Cascais, Faro, Lagos, Lisboa, Loulé, Loures, Lourinhã, Mafra, Mira, Moita, Montijo, Mourão, Nazaré, Odivelas, Oeiras, Olhão, Porto, Santo Tirso, São Brás de Alportel, Seixal, Sesimbra, Silves, Sintra, Sobral de Monte Agraço, Vagos and Vila Franca de Xira.

These very high-risk municipalities are under the following lockdown measures:

  • A digital covid certificate or a negative test required to access hotels and other holiday accommodation;
  • Restaurants closed at 10.30pm, with a digital covid certificate or a negative test required to eat indoors on Friday evenings and at weekends and holidays, and a maximum of 4 people per table inside, and 6 people per table outside;
  • Cultural events closed at 10.30pm;
  • Supermarkets and groceries closed at 9pm on weekdays and 7pm at weekends and holidays
  • Non-food retailers closed at 9pm on weekdays and 3.30pm at weekends and holidays;
  • Night-time curfew from 11pm to 5am;
  • Working from home mandatory where possible.

A set of additional high-risk municipalities are placed under slightly less strict rules, but a digital covid certificate or a negative test is still required to access hotels and to eat indoors at restaurants on Friday evenings and at weekends and holidays.

Here’s the updated list of these high-risk 27 municipalities: Albergaria-a-Velha, Alenquer, Aveiro, Azambuja, Bombarral, Braga, Cartaxo, Constância, Ílhavo, Lagoa, Matosinhos, Óbidos, Palmela, Paredes de Coura, Portimão, Rio Maior, Salvaterra de Magos, Santarém, Setúbal, Sines, Torres Vedras, Trancoso, Trofa, Viana do Alentejo, Vila Nova de Famalicão, Vila Nova de Gaia and Viseu.

For the rest of Portugal, the following rules apply:

  • A digital covid certificate or a negative test required to access hotels and other holiday accommodation;
  • Cafés, restaurants and events closed at 1am, with a maximum of 6 people per table inside, and 10 people per table outside;
  • Retail stores return to pre-Covid hours;
  • Public transport running a full schedule but onboard capacity at 2/3;
  • Cultural events until midnight at 50% capacity;
  • Working from home recommended where possible.

Here’s what came before in Portugal’s 2021 roadmap for easing Covid lockdown:

15 March

  • Kindergartens, pre-school and primary school;
  • Hairdressers and barbers;
  • Bookstores, car dealerships, and real estate agencies.

5 April

  • Middle school (2nd and 3rd cycles);
  • Museums, monuments and palaces;
  • Storefront retailers below 200sq m;
  • Terraces (maximum 4 people per table);
  • Street markets;
  • Gyms with no group classes.

19 April

  • Secondary school;
  • Universities;
  • Cinemas and theatres;
  • All retail stores and shopping malls;
  • Cafés and restaurants with a maximum of 4 people per table inside, and 6 people per table outside;
  • Weddings and baptisms at 25% capacity

1 May

  • Cafés and restaurants with a maximum of 6 people per table inside, and 10 people per table outside;
  • All gyms;
  • Big outdoor events and inside events at limited capacity;
  • Weddings and baptisms at 50% capacity.

The Pandemic in Portugal During 2020

By 16 March 2020, 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 in 2020 as wearing a face mask becomes mandatory in enclosed public spaces as well as crowded outdoor spaces:

4 May 2020
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 2020
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 2020
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 2020
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 2020
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 2020

  • 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 2020
State of contingency

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

15 October 2020
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 2020

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

4 November 2020
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 2020 through 14 January 2021
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 until 16 March 2021
Full lockdown

  • Non-essential shops closed, but cafés and restaurants can have takeaway, drive-through and delivery services
  • Supermarkets and groceries must close at 8pm on weekdays and 5pm on weekends
  • Hotels remain open
  • Remote working compulsory where possible
  • All schools closed starting on 22 January
  • Restrictions on movement eased on 24 January for the presidential election
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