LISBON, Portugal (AP) – Although much of the European Union is facing new waves of COVID-19 cases, with restrictions on what people can do, Portugal is moving in a different direction.
From Monday, the Portuguese will be able to visit restaurants, shopping malls and cinemas. Classes will resume in high schools and universities. Schools for young children are already open, as are cafes and restaurants.
After becoming the world’s worst-hit country in January, an epidemic in Portugal was triggered by a blockade that authorities eased four weeks ago.
On Friday, Ricardo Mexia, head of the Portuguese Association of Public Health Physicians, said the country’s epidemic situation was “very manageable”.
He told the Associated Press that Portugal was reaping the benefits of the blockade, which began in mid-January and “lasted a little longer than necessary”.
The incidence rate of the virus per 100,000 inhabitants per 14 days, which is the main indicator of the epidemic, is 68. At the end of January, 1,628.
Meanwhile, the number of hospitalized patients has dropped to a manageable level. The resuscitation departments of the country of 10.3 million treated more than 900 patients in early February, but now care for 101.
For the first time since August, there were no COVID-19 deaths in the capital, Lisbon, on Thursday. On Friday, Portugal officially reported 553 new COVID-19 cases, with four deaths across the country.
Part of the reason, in addition to the blockade, is that Portugal has avoided cases of restricted imports, which for weeks effectively barred arrivals from other EU countries. It closed the border with neighboring Spain.
The head of the Medical Association of Mexico said that the fate of Portugal in the coming weeks depends on how much the population is afraid to wear masks, to keep their distance from each other, how quickly the authorities act if they find an outbreak, how fast vaccinations are carried out.
Lack of supply has delayed Portugal’s vaccination plan, as it does in the rest of the EU. About 6.5% of the population is fully vaccinated, which is slightly below the EU average.
Prime Minister Antonio Costa warned late Thursday night that if things started to rise again, the country could change its outfit and fall back into the blockade. “The requirement to wear masks and adhere to the rules of social exclusion remains in force,” said Costa, as is the mandatory home order.
On the outskirts of Lisbon on Friday, many people restrained the spring sun in restaurant esplanades.
“I think it’s great,” said Maria Ferreira, the 56-year-old manager of the company, about the recent easing of restrictions on lunch. “We have to stay positive, but we have to be careful,” he said.