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Corona: After hard lockdown, country enters third phase
Portugal is slowly breathing again and since the beginning of the week the country has entered a third phase of cautious opening after the hard lockdown in winter. Cinemas, theaters and major shopping malls have also been open since Monday. Preschool classes are back in session at high schools and universities. Restaurants and cafes are now allowed to stay open until 10 p.m., albeit on a more limited basis.
Although classes have been back in session for a month in the lower grades, and daycare centers and hair salons have been open, and the use of terraces in restaurants, bars and cafes has been limited for two weeks, there has been no increase in infections or prere on hospitals. The number of coronavirus patients in hospitals has fallen below 500 for the first time since September.
All coronavirus indicators remain stable after Easter, despite the tentative signs of recovery. The seven-day incidence per 100.000 inhabitants is (as of Monday) an exemplary 34 in the EU, while in neighboring Spain it has risen again to 128, in Germany to 165 and in France even to 339.
Most significantly for Portugal, however, the situation in hospitals has eased significantly after the winter disaster, when the country had the highest incidence in the world, the health system collapsed, and about 300 deaths were recorded every day. Converted to the number of inhabitants that was in Germany about 2.400 deaths a day, which is why the government in Lisbon had to apply the emergency brake.
The hard lockdown has transformed Portugal from a hotspot into a role model once again. On Monday, only 441 confirmed new infections and three new deaths were reported in the country. In Germany, on the other hand, there were 11.437 new infections and 92 new deaths.
The socialist government under Antonio Costa continues to focus on a slow and controlled offing. After the country has come through the first and second waves well, they don’t want to squander the hard-won victories. The mistake of a rapid opening, which led to the fatal third wave at Christmas, should not be repeated.
Therefore, the national borders with Spain will remain until 3. May locked. Although the Portuguese are now allowed to leave the district on weekends to go to the beach, visit family or friends, on Saturday and Sunday catering establishments must close as early as 1 p.m. Efforts are also being made to vaccinate the population as quickly as possible. Massive testing is being done, for example at schools and universities, to quickly track down sources of infection. Self-tests are sold in pharmacies. In some cities, such as the capital Lisbon, they are distributed free of charge.
However, the opening does not apply to all cities. There are ten exceptions, including Portimao, where the incidence is above 200. If they made it to phase two, they would have to go back to phase one and also close the restaurant terraces again. Six other municipalities with an incidence above 120, such as Albufeira, also in the Algarve, remain in the second phase.
The Algarve, Madeira and the Azores are also the subject of a travel warning by the German Foreign Office, as the seven-day incidence is above 50. Thus, a quarantine obligation applies after the return. All air travelers must continue to show a negative test result before flying back, even if they are not returning from the three risk areas.