Europe was badly hit by COVID-19 in March, and during the colder months became once again the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic.
After a period of decline in death and infection rates, Portugal saw a significant rise of daily infections, reentered a state of emergency, and is now witnessing a decrease in coronavirus numbers. Many visitors are now wondering: what is the current situation and when will it be safe to travel to Lisbon and Portugal?
As of 1 May 2021, Portugal will enter the last phase of its lockdown easing. Earlier this year, the country 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 have been reopening since mid March.
The general rules now include:
- Working from home where possible;
- Cafés, restaurants and events closed at 10.30pm;
- Retail stores closed at 9pm on weekdays and 7pm on weekends and holidays.
Restrictions for the entire country also include face masks compulsory in enclosed public spaces as well as in crowded outdoor spaces.
Here’s the full breakdown of the announced 2021 reopening plan:
- Kindergartens, pre-school and primary school;
- Hairdressers and barbers;
- Bookstores, car dealerships, and real estate agencies.
- 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.
- Secondary school;
- 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
- 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)
- 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
- 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