“The Council of Ministers has decided that from 00h01 on the 15th (Meaning all day 15th) the duty to remain at home will return to Portugal in general”, announced António Costa.
“The exceptions that already existed in March and April will remain,” he noted.
We are living in a “more dangerous” moment, but also one of “greater hope”: this is how António Costa began his speech announcing the measures for the new confinement that will begin this Thursday. Recalling the high number of deaths in recent days, Costa warned of the relaxation that accompanied the arrival of the vaccine.
António Costa said that the new measures are limited to the duty to “stay at home”. “There is no tiredness that allows us to take on this collective pain of continuing to have over 100 deaths a day, it is not acceptable and we have to stop this. The key message of the decisions we take is to return to the duty of home collection, as we did in March and April when we successfully stopped the first wave. Let us not focus on the exception, but on the rule. The rule is simple: each of us must stay at home”.
The Prime Minister said that we must “stop the growth of the pandemic, save lives, crush the curve, protect the NHS, support health professionals and that the Portuguese help each other”.
António Costa said that the Portuguese will still be able to go to the grocery store or work when they need to, but the golden rule is “stay at home”. “It’s up to each one of us to collect ourselves in order to protect others and ourselves. Only then will we succeed in fighting the pandemic,” he said.
António Costa stressed the need to “not sacrifice the current generation of students” again in this new confinement. That is why all educational establishments continue to operate.
“We cannot repeat the same rule again this year and therefore, with the precautions that have made the school safe, we will keep schools functioning. This is truly the only new and relevant exception”, António Costa said.
Teleworking will be compulsory wherever possible. Fines for those who do not follow the rules will be doubled
António Costa said that there had been no compliance with the rules on compulsory teleworking whenever it was possible and that the measures now announced would be accompanied by two important changes. “Teleworking is imposed without the need for an agreement between employers and workers, and without the agreement of either. It is compulsory wherever possible. And to ensure compliance with this obligation, we consider as very serious the fine arising from the violation of the obligation to telework”, he said.
“To signal to everyone that individual responsibility has to be combined with collective solidarity, all the fines that are foreseen for violation of any of the norms for containment of the pandemic, such as the use of the mask on public roads, will be doubled so that there is a clear signal that it is fundamental to make an increased effort to contain the pandemic at a time when we are facing a more dangerous moment,” the Prime Minister announced.
“I would like to remind you that when in April I announced the programme of deconfinement that we were going to start progressively in May I told the Portuguese that I would not be ashamed to go back if and when it was necessary. And here I am, showing my face, not ashamed to go back to where we were last April”, said António Costa, assuring that he understands the weight that these measures will have on those who fear losing their jobs and on business owners who are fighting for their companies’ livelihoods.
For them, the Prime Minister revealed that “the set of economic measures will be extended and renewed,” reiterating that all “closed activities will have automatic access to the simplified layoff.
Asked about possible restrictions on flights to the Autonomous Regions, António Costa said that these had never been introduced and would never be introduced now as “the principle of territorial continuity has to be ensured” and there will never be any restrictions on flights to and from the Açores and Madeira.
As for monitoring the new measures, and questioning whether there will be a reinforcement of operational means, Costa said that the police forces will act with “the diligence that we are used to”.
The restrictions that are in place for border control and that were recently renewed will remain in place, the Prime Minister said.
“When I said at Christmas that I would not hesitate to pull the handbrake if necessary, we pull the handbrake right after New Year’s Eve,” the Prime Minister recalled.
“We are all well aware that a general lockdown has huge economic costs,” he said. “But there is something we also know: the cost of human life is priceless.
“We have reached a point where we cannot hesitate about what needs to be done, so we really need to take a step back and adopt the containment measures”.
António Costa assured, however, that the 2021 State Budget can help to protect families and businesses from this confinement.
António Costa recalls the “difficult balance” of recent months between the vitality of the economy and the control of covid-19. The Prime Minister makes it clear, however, that the priority now is to reduce the number of cases and deaths, not contesting the adverse economic effects that this new confinement will cause.
“Each time the pandemic forces us to limit activities, the economy suffers severely. Each time the pandemic allows us to ease the restrictions, the economy naturally develops more positively. So we all look forward to not having to adopt more restrictive measures. We have been looking over these months for measures to concentrate on the weekend and not on essential activities. We cannot hesitate when it comes to the growth of the pandemic as we are experiencing it. The measures have to be adopted and the stronger they are, the quicker they take effect. If you ask me, will it have a negative impact on the economy? It certainly will”.
What will be closed or prohibited in the new lockdown – and the exceptions
– Trade, services will be closed, except for authorised establishments such as grocery shops, super and hypermarkets and others;
– All educational establishments will continue to operate;
– The Courts will also function;
– Restaurants and cafés will only be allowed to operate via take-away or home delivery.
– Public services available by appointment;
– All events are prohibited except for election campaigns and religious celebrations.
– Cultural facilities will be closed.
– It will be possible to exercise in the open air. Gyms and other sports venues will be closed.
– The matches of the national teams and the 1st senior division will not be open to the public.