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Portuguese deprived of vacation

Government imposes very strict restrictions on public holidays in early December

Government imposes very strict restrictions on public holidays in early December

From our correspondent Marie-Line Darcy, in Lisbon – Private Easter and All Saints and now the Portuguese are also deprived of long weekends on December 1 and 8. These holidays correspond to a weekday, a Tuesday this year, and they thus offer the possibility of making a bridge much appreciated normally to prepare for the Christmas holidays. But this time no mini vacation because the order is to stay at home.

The coronavirus is gaining ground. Portugal crossed the limit of 4,000 deaths from covid on Tuesday, November 24. Hospitalizations have continued to increase since the beginning of October, but it is above all the number of patients in intensive care that concerns the health services. More than 500 critically ill patients are currently being treated in hospitals for a total capacity of around 700 beds nationwide.

Portugal has made an effort since last March and it has practically doubled its resuscitation capacity. However, faced with this second wave of more acute covid-19, hospitals are in the process of saturation. “We have the possibility of increasing the number of intensive care beds to 1,000, but this will be to the detriment of other diseases,” said Marta Temido, Minister of Health.

Breaking up is what the SNS, the National Health Service, seeks to avoid at all costs. And if in the spring Portugal had benefited from a delay compared to countries like Italy, Spain or France which had allowed it to anticipate the pandemic, the second wave hit it head-on. . Prime Minister Antonio Costa himself has acknowledged the worsening situation: “No one predicted that the second wave would be so fast and so violent,” he said recently.

This time the level of restrictions is high. The government has decided to ban traffic between the various municipalities of the country for the four days of the two coming bridges. December 1 marks the anniversary of the restoration of Portuguese independence from Spain in 1640. December 8, for its part, is the Catholic feast of the Immaculate Conception. The government decided to grant the civil service the right to bridge the gap on the Monday before these December 1 and 8 public holidays and suspended the school year for the period in order to free teachers.

Portugal is also innovating by dividing the country into four zones according to the seriousness of the risk of contagion. For the two highest levels of risk, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, the curfew is mandatory from 1 p.m. noon to 5 a.m. the following day. During the week, this curfew is compulsory between 11 pm and 5 am, the latter measure also being applied at the third level of risk.

It will be possible to leave your home for local food shopping, to breathe out and walk your dog, for medical consultations and to work. Already in place for 15 days, the weekend curfew is generally well followed. A survey revealed that from 2 p.m. on weekends 80% of Portuguese are at home. There is no need for a pass or heavy fines here: persuasion and information are the key words. This does not prevent the police from having to intervene occasionally to dismantle festive gatherings or family reunions that do not respect the rules for the number of guests.

The Portuguese are playing the game. But the weariness and worry are palpable. The bars and restaurants closed in a country where one likes to dine for a long time with friends or family is heartbreaking. Social life is totally upset. Lisbon and Porto become ghosts when the curfew comes. The absence of tourists increases the feeling of loneliness. The eight million Portuguese affected by the most severe measures round back and punctuate their sentences with a resigned “must”.

But the challenge wins. The “bread and water” movement of restaurateurs and bar owners regularly stirs public opinion. Forced to lower the curtain at 10 p.m. on weekdays and not open on weekends, the area suffers from suffocation. During the regularly organized demonstrations, traders are seen waving bare tree branches decorated with water bottles as Christmas trees. The measures taken around December 1 and 8 have no other purpose than to reverse the contagion curve, quickly and in time for the Christmas holidays, which everyone in Portugal still hopes to save.


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