Portugal tourism squeezed over new virus containment measures

 In News

Portugal’s Easter tourism period looks set to grind to a halt in an anticipated national state of emergency which could be announced by the Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa on Wednesday.

It was announced over the weekend that Portugal would restrict the movement of tourists and leisure activities on the border with Spain for at least a month following a number of consultations with the Spanish government.
However, the transport of goods will remain uninterrupted for the time being. The measure to control the movement of tourists at this time of the year, said prime minister António Costa “is particularly important taking into account that, as we know, there is traditionally a high influx of Spanish tourists in Portugal at Easter.”
“These measures will be agreed tomorrow (Monday) so as to ensure that our land border will continue to allow a good degree of operations between the two countries while ensuring the safety and security so vital at the moment.”
The situation regarding national airports was less clear on Monday, although low-cost airline easyJet which flies to Lisbon, Porto and Faro airports warned that the majority of its fleet could be grounded while the holiday company Tui cancelled nearly all holidays.
easyJet said it would continue to operate rescue flights from Spain for short periods “where we can” to repatriate passengers; however it would be also cutting operations further.
“These actions will continue on a rolling basis for the foreseeable future and could result in the grounding of the majority of the easyJet fleet,” the airline said in a statement.
The airline Ryanair announced on Sunday that it too would be “dramatically reducing” flights from and to Spain, including the Canary and Balearic Islands between Monday and Thursday to slow the spread of the virus.
The editor of the Algarve Resident newspaper, Inês Lopes told Essential Business on Monday that many restaurants and shops had closed and normally bustling tourist areas, including beaches, were much quieter than usual in the holiday region.
The Portuguese Government estimates that Portugal’s economy could lose up to €4Bn a month while the crisis lasts.
Beaches around Greater Lisbon, including those in the municipality of Cascais, were closed to both nationals and international tourists in a bid to “counter large concentrations of people” and thereby “minimise the spread of the New Coronavirus.”
The measure was put in place by the Port of Cascais Authority, whose commandant Rui Terra said that the objective was not to “totally ban people from going for a walk on or by beaches, but rather to stop groups of more than five people, thereby reducing the risk of spreading the virus.”
According to daily newspaper Diário de Notícias, hundreds of passengers crowded public concourses at Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado international airport as passengers and the public largely ignored Government advice and rules to prevent the spread of the virus leading to the probability that the PSP police and airport authorities will restrict and constrain movement at Portugal’s airports in anticipation of a very likely shutdown of airports by the Government and President of the Republic on Wednesday.
The Government had already banned tourists from disembarking from passenger cruise liners last week, with the exception of Portuguese nationals returning from holidays. That decision was taken by the Portuguese Council of Ministers on Wednesday.
Lisbon’s tourist board Turismo de Lisboa ordered the closure of tourist offices in the city as well as other amenities, attractions and facilities which fall under its jurisdiction. This includes the Carlos Lopes Pavilion in the city’s Edward VII Park, the Patio de Galé, Lisbon Story Centre, Rua Augusto Arch viewing point and Pilar 7 Experience.
Trade fairs, congresses, seminars, events and workshops have already been cancelled up and down the country, including the annual Portugal Travel and Tourism Fair BTL which has been postponed at least until the end of May.
Lisbon and Porto’s shopping centres too were preparing to roll out access restrictions after store employees at major shopping centres Vasco da Gama and Colombo in Lisbon held extremely vocal protests to the decision by shopping centre management companies to keep shopping centres open despite the risk of contagion from shoppers to staff.
The Portuguese Association of Shopping Centres (APCC) guaranteed in a statement that the businesses it represents are prepared to “comply” with Government access restrictions that came into force on Monday (today).
According to Ordinance Nº 71/2020 there is currently a maximum occupancy limit of four people for every 100m2 of area intended for the public.
The President of the APCC, António Sampaio de Matos, said that members should be “prepared to comply with the new rules” and that it had been “following the developments since the epidemic outbreak with concern and understands the apprehension of the various storeowners and their staff, as well as the requests expressed for the closure of the shopping centres.”