Covid-19: how Portugal is dealing with the pandemic

If you are living in Portugal during the Covid-19 pandemic we have plenty of useful information for you, such as the measures put in place by the Portuguese Government, information regarding flights to and from the country, land access and useful links to embassies and consulates.

The new coronavirus has brought the world to a standstill. 

The virus was first identified in China, in December 2019, and was meanwhile named SARS-Cov-2. It quickly jumped beyond the borders of Wuhan (Hubei province) and proceeded to spread all over the world. 

On 30 January, the World Health Organisation (WHO) classified the outbreak as an international public health emergency and on 11 March upgraded it to pandemic. 

In this article we have gathered some useful information for you, such as the measures that have been put in place by the Portuguese government. 

Covid-19: What are the main symptoms?

The SARS-Cov-2 is part of the large coronavirus family. Other strands of coronavirus have been known to infect humans for some time, and these can cause anything from a mild cold to more serious respiratory infections, such as SARS (2002) and MERS (2012). This new variety had never been identified before in humans, and the illness it causes is called Covid-19.

According to the WHO, the most common symptoms are: 

  • Fever;
  • Fatigue;
  • Breathing difficulties.

Some people also complain of body aches, nasal congestions, runny nose, sore throat and diarrhoea. Others, despite being infected by the virus, do not develop symptoms, and are therefore asymptomatic. 

According to the WHO, around 80% of patients recover without the need of any special treatment, but others develop severe pneumonia, with acute breathing difficulties and failure of the kidneys and other organs that can eventually lead to death. 

Some sectors of the population are at greater risk of developing more serious symptoms. These include the elderly (over 70), people with other chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure or chronic respiratory illnesses as well as those who have immunity problems. If you develop Covid-19 symptoms you should not go to an Emergency Room, but instead call the national health service hotline and follow directions given. The number is 808 24 24 24.

You can learn more about the disease, symptoms or treatment at the World Health Organisation or Portugal’s board of health (DGS) websites. 

Portugal’s containment measures

In order to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, governments all over the world have been taking measures to avoid a peak in numbers. The Portuguese government is no exception and has adopted several measures. 

Measures for the entire continental national territory, as of January 16:

  • Duty to stay at home, except for a set of authorized trips, namely:
    • acquisition of essential goods and services,
    • performance of professional activities when there is no teleworking,
    • participation in the scope of the electoral campaign or the election of the President of the Republic,
    • the frequency of school establishments,
    • the fulfillment of parental responsibility sharing,
    • others.
  • Mandatory adoption of the teleworking regime, whenever the functions in question allow (exception for workers of essential services);
  • Closure of a wide range of facilities and establishments, including cultural and leisure activities, sports activities and spas;
  • Retail and service provision activities were suspended in establishments open to the public, with the exception of authorized establishments;
  • Catering establishments and the like operate exclusively for home delivery or take-away;
  • Public services provide face-to-face service by appointment;
  • Operation of fairs and markets, only for the sale of food products;
  • Celebrations and other events are prohibited, with the exception of religious ceremonies and events within the scope of the electoral campaign and the election of the President of the Republic.

Measures for Christmas and New Year:

24 and 25 December

  • Travelling between councils is allowed;
  • Being outdoors:
    • Evening of 23 to 24: allowed only for people in transit;
    • 24 and 25: allowed until 02h00 of the following day;
    • 26: allowed until 23h00.
  • Business hours:
    • Evenings of 24 and 25, restaurants can be open until 01h00;
    • 26, restaurants can be open until 15h30 in high and extreme risk councils;
    • On the 24 and 25 closing times do not apply to cultural establishments.

31 December to 4 January:

  • Travelling between councils is forbidden from 00h00 of 31 December to 05h00 of 4 January;
  • Being outdoors, in all of mainland Portugal:
    • Forbidden on 31 December after 23h00;
    • Forbidden on the 1, 2 and 3 January after 13h00;
  • Business hours, all of mainland Portugal:
    • On 31 December, restaurants can remain open until 22h30;
    • On 1, 2 e 3 January restaurants can remain open until 13h00 and only for deliveries after that. Public, or public access, parties are forbidden.
  • Gatherings of over six people are forbidden.

The worse months: October and November

With the number of cases increasing and the transmission of COVID-19 pace increasing, the Portuguese government has decided to take a series of measures to stop the pandemic.

1. State of emergency renewed on 24 November

The state of emergency was renewed, on the past 24 November, and a number of new measures were implemented.

The list of councils with a high-risk of contagion was updated and a four-tiered ranking was established, in terms of gravity:

  • Moderate: Councils with less than 240 cases per 100 thousand inhabitants over the past 14 days;
  • High: Councils with between 240 and 479 cases per 100 thousand inhabitants over the past 14 days;
  • Very high: Councils with between 480 and 959 cases per 100 thousand inhabitants over the past 14 days;
  • Extremely high: Councils with over 960 cases per 100 thousand inhabitants over the past 14 days.

Measures for all of continental Portugal:

  • No travelling between councils in the following periods:
    • Between 23h00, 27 November and 5h00, 2 December;
    • Between 23h00, 4 December and 5h00, 9 December.
  • Day off for all public sector workers – and request that private sector follow suit – on 30 November and 7 December. Suspension of all classes on those same days;
  • Mandatory use of face masks in the workplace.

For “high-risk” councils, besides the aforementioned measures that apply to the whole of continental Portugal:

  • Curfew everyday between 23h00 and 5h00;
  • Increased inspections to ensure that those who can are working from home;
  • Commercial establishments continue to have to close by 22h00 (except restaurants and cultural establishments, which must close by 22h30).

For “very high-risk” and “extremely high-risk” councils, besides the measures that pertain to the whole of continental Portugal, the following also apply:

  • Curfew between 23h00 and 5h00 on weekdays;
  • Curfew between 13h00 and 5h00 on Saturdays and Sundays;
  • Curfew between 13h00 and 5h00 on 1 and 8 December;
  • Commercial establishments must close by 15h00 on 30 November and 7 December;
  • Inspections to make sure that those who can are working from home.

Click here for the full list of councils and their respective risk level.

2. Nationwide state of emergency declared, beginning 9 November

The state of emergency was declared for 15 days. The main measures are:

There are, however, some exceptions to this curfew. Such as:

  • Travelling for professional reasons, or equivalent. This requires a written declaration by the employer;
  • Travelling for health reasons, to health providers or pharmacies;
  • Travelling for purposes of emergency sheltering of victims of domestic violence or human trafficking, as well as at-risk children and young adults;
  • Travelling to provide assistance to vulnerable people, handicapped people, offspring, parents, elderly or other dependent people;
  • Travelling for the purpose of fulfilling parental responsibilities;
  • Short recreational walks and walking pets;
  • Going to the grocery or supermarket or other establishments that sell food and hygiene products for both people and animals;
  • Veterinary emergencies;
  • Travelling for the exercise of freedom of the press;
  • Travelling for other reasons of force-majeure;
  • Returning home from permitted outings.

The following professionals are exempt from carrying a declaration from their employer:

  • Health professionals and others employed by health and social support institutions;
  • Civil protection, security forces and services, militarized agents and Armed Forces civilian staff and Health and Safety Authority inspectors.
  • Magistrates, managers of social partner institutions and political parties with seats in Parliament, as well as others entitled to free-transit documents, issued according to the law;
  • Religious ministers, provided with credentials issued by the competent organs of the respective church or religious community;
  • Members of diplomatic and consular missions and international organisations based in Portugal, as long as related to their official obligations.

In a subsequent meeting of the Government, it was clarified that commercial establishments can only be open on Saturdays and Sundays between 08:00 and 13:00. The only exceptions are:

  • Pharmacies;
  • Clinics and doctor’s offices;
  • Establishments selling food with a door to the street and up to 200 square meters;
  • Petrol stations.

These measures add to the ones already taken under the state of calamity issued on 15 October.

3. Since 15 October: Portugal returns to state of calamity

On 15 October Portugal returned from a state of contingency to a state of calamity, which lasted until November 9. Therefore, there were new measures in place (still in place during the most recent emergency state). These include:

  • No gatherings of more than five people on public roads or any other commercial spaces or restaurants;
  • Family events, such as weddings, baptisms and others are limited to 50 guests;
  • The public are advised to use the StayAwayCovid app and insert information on any positive tests into it;
  • Any academic parties or non-lecture or scientific related activities, such as university freshman welcoming parties and other festivities, are strictly forbidden;
  • Shops and restaurants that cannot ensure the fulfilment of existing rules will face up to 10 thousand euro fines.

Meanwhile, from 28 October on, the use of masks has become mandatory throughout the country, by “people over the age of 10 to access, circulate or remain in public spaces and roads, whenever it is impractical to guarantee the social distancing recommended by health authorities”, according to a law approved by Parliament. Exceptions to this law apply:

  • With the presentation of a medical prescription for general incapacity or a medical statement for people who suffer from cognitive or developmental disabilities or psychological disturbances;
  • When the use of a mask is incompatible with the nature of the activities that the person is performing;
  • To groups of cohabiting family members, whenever they are not in the proximity of third parties. 

During an extraordinary meeting of the cabinet, the Government approved a set of measures to control the Covid-19 pandemic. These apply to 121 high-risk councils and are to take place between 4 November and, at least, until 15 November.

Main measures:

  • People are required to remain confined to their homes, with exceptions for previously authorised outings;
  • Commercial establishments must close by 22h00;
  • Restaurants are required to close by 22h30;
  • Parties and events with over five people are forbidden, unless they are cohabiting members of the same family;
  • Religious ceremonies and cultural shows are permitted, provided they abide by health regulations;
  • Whenever possible, people should work from home.

From 15 September to 15 October: a return to the state of contingency in Mainland Portugal

As of 15 September, the state of contingency that already applied to the Lisbon Metropolitan Area was extended to the rest of the mainland.

Measures in all of mainland Portugal:

  • Gatherings were limited to 10 people;
  • Gatherings of only four people were allowed in restaurants located in shopping centres, as well as in restaurants, cafés and patisseries located within 300 meters of schools;
  • Commercial establishments could only open from 10am onwards (with the exception of cafés, patisseries, hairdressers or gyms) and could close between 20h and 23h;
  • There were also changes to restaurant timetables: clients could enter up to midnight, and the establishments could remain open until 1h;
  • The sale of alcohol was forbidden at service stations (at any time) and in any commercial establishment from 20h onwards, except for drinks that accompany meals;
  • The consumption of alcohol in public outdoor spaces was forbidden;
  • No audience permitted in sports facilities;
  • It was not necessary to wear masks in the street, but their use continued to be obligatory in all closed spaces, including public transport, commercial establishments, cafés and restaurants (except while eating and drinking), public services and schools (staff, teachers and students from grades 1 onwards).

Measures for the Metropolitan Areas of Lisbon and Porto:

  • Measures regarding distance working remained, but a number of measures are planned to ensure a rotation between distance working and being in the office;
  • A rotation system should be employed to ensure different schedules for entering and leaving, but also for breaks and meals between employees.

Between 1 July to 15 September: Portugal in a state of alertness

On 1 July Portugal moved into a state of alertness, although Lisbon and the Tejo Valley region were put into a state of contingency (intermediate level) — 19 localities in the Lisbon metropolitan area (all of Amadora and Odivelas, six parishes in Sintra, two in Loures and the parish of Santa Clara, in Lisbon) remained in a state of calamity until 1 August, but, since then, were also been put into a state of contingency.

Mainland Portugal – state of alertness

The main measures were:

  • Mandatory isolation for infected patients and people under active observation;
  • Rules regarding physical distancing remained in force, as did those regarding the use of face masks, maximum occupancy, timetables and sanitisation;
  • Gatherings of up to 20 people only;
  • Consumption of alcohol in public spaces wass forbidden;
  • Fines: of €100 to €500 for citizens and between €1,000 and €5,000 for organisations and companies.

Lisbon and Tejo Valley – state of contingency

The additional measures were:

  • All commercial establishments had to close at 20h, except: restaurants serving meals and take-away, supermarkets and hypermarkets (until 22h), petrol stations, clinics, doctor’s offices and veterinarians, chemists, funeral homes and sports equipment shops;
  • Service stations were forbidden from selling alcohol;
  • Gatherings of up to 10 people only.

19 parishes in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area – state of calamity

The additional measures were:

  • Civic duty to stay at home;
  • Markets and fairs are forbidden;
  • Gatherings of up to five people only;
  • Increased vigilance of mandatory isolation by joint teams of Civil Defence; Social Security and Community Health officers.

From 4 May to 1 July: state of calamity in Portugal

A state of calamity was declared in Portugal on 4 May. Staying at home was now a civic duty for the general population.

The transition plan announced by the Government foresaw different measures for different phases. The first began on 4 May, while the second one began on 18 May and the following two started on 31 May and 1 June.

First phase

The main measures included:

  • Masks were mandatory on public transport, at all public attendance services, schools and commercial establishments, as well as in services that were opened to the public;
  • Events or gatherings with more than 10 people were forbidden;
  • Relatives were now allowed at funerals;
  • Wherever possible, people should work from home;
  • Public transport equipped with disinfectant and capacity is limited to 66%;
  • Public services would see people by appointment;
  • Local commerce, including restaurants, hairdressers, bookshops and car stands, could open;
  • Libraries reopened and individual outdoor sports could be resumed.

Phase two

Phase two began on 18 May, and included the following measures:

  • Restaurants, cafes, pastry shops and their respective terraces opened, but safety measures had to be observed. These included keeping a distance of two meters from other patrons, all customers must wear masks and the occupancy of the establishment is reduced to 50%;
  • Shops up to 400 M2 could open, so long as they had a door to the outside. Masks were mandatory in commercial spaces and limits had to be set on the total area in which people were allowed to circulate;
  • Museums, monuments and palaces, art galleries and exhibition rooms could resume their activity. Visitors had to disinfect their hands and use masks indoors, as well as respect safety distances;
  • Camping and caravan sites reopened, as did motorhome service stations, football and rugby pitches and stadiums. Recreational sailing lessons could resume, and boats could be surveyed and inspected again;
  • On site classes began again for 11th and 12th grade students, who had to wear masks and were forbidden from going outside during breaks. Classes will be divided into shifts – either morning or afternoon – and wiould be held in large spaces;
  • Day-care centres could reopen, but had to respect certain social distancing and hygiene rules,  set by the General Health Directorate. These included fewer children in each classroom and having them leave their shoes at the door;

Visits to retirement homes were once again authorised, although with strict rules. For example, visitors must book beforehand and there can only be one per resident.

Phase three

The third phase kicked in on 1 June. The main measures were:

  • Gyms reopened, but with tough security measures. Masks must be worn on entering and leaving and a minimum distance of three meters must be kept between people. Changing rooms remain closed;
  • Restaurants no longer limited to 50% capacity, so long as they could ensure barriers between clients who are face-to-face and a safe distance between tables;
  • Shopping centers and shops over 400m2 reopened all over the country on the 1 June, except in the Greater Lisbon area, where they only opened on 4 June;
  • Cinemas, theatres and concert halls reopened, as long as they can guarantee that patrons use masks, keep entrances and exits separate and ensure safety distances;
  • Working from home is no longer mandatory, although it can be kept up as an option;
  • Religious services could be resumed, providing masks are used and safety distances ensured;
  • Preschool started up again, with new safety rules.

From 18 March to 2 May: state of emergency and respective measures

Prior to this, a state of emergency had been declared in Portugal on 18 march, and renewed on 1 April and 26 of April, until 2 May. This was an exceptional situation which allows the Government to apply certain restrictions. 

Mandatory confinement

Mandatory confinement has been decreed for people who are ill with Covid-19, or infected, or who have been under active vigilance by the health authorities. If one does not comply, one can be charged with disobedience. 

Special duty of protection

This applies to citizens who are part of so-called risk groups. These people should only leave the house in order to go shopping, to the bank, post office or health centre, to take short walks or to walk pets. 

General duty of confinement

The general population is required to avoid unnecessary travel. They should leave home only to purchase essential goods, go to the bank, post office or health centre, to go to work or to job interviews, help with family or for short walks with children or pets. 

Working from home

Whenever possible, people should work from home. 

Suspension of trade and retail

Trade and retail activities have been suspended, except in cases of essential or important goods. Establishments that can stay open include grocery stores, supermarkets, butchers, bakers, petrol stations, chemists, newsagents, veterinary clinics or pet stores. 

Public services: in person, only by appointment

Public services will have their doors closed and see people only by appointment or by phone. Citizen’s Shops will be closed and other services are only available to those who make appointments. 

Novo Banco’s measures

Due to the pandemic, NOVO BANCO has been trying to dissuade people from going to branches, and encouraging the use of digital channels, with certain benefits until the 30th, such as: 

– Free (non-immediate) interbank transfers through digital channels (NBnet and NB smart app);

– Commission free advances of cash and credit to your checking account through NBnet;

– Free services on MB WAY.

NOVO BANCO branches have taken to closing at lunch time, for a period of up to three months. The bank guarantees hygiene and safety conditions for its staff at each of its branches. At the branches, equipment and shared spaces are disinfected regularly and there is a limit of 4 people per every 100m2. Some branches are temporarily closed to the public and the rest close between 12h and 13h. 

You can see details of the measures adopted here

 Useful links

> World Health Organisation

> Portuguese Board of Health (Direção-geral da Saúde)

> Contacts of embassies and consulates in Portugal (Portuguese only)

> Information on air-travel restrictions in several countries

SNS24 Hotline: 808 24 24 24


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