How is coronavirus – Covid-19 – affecting Portugal? With most of Europe in lockdown to try and control its spread, how is Portugal coping and what is the expats’ view from the Algarve and the cities?
Coronavirus has been at the forefront of everyone’s mind over the past few weeks. What started as a few cases in Italy has quickly spread across Europe, with more countries closing borders and enacting lockdown procedures. There’s a lot of uncertainty, and things are changing quickly. As we all gear up to weather this storm, we wanted to look at how the situation is affecting Portugal.
Portugal has fewer confirmed cases than Spain
As of Tuesday 17th March, the number of confirmed cases in Portugal stood at 448 against 9,191 in Spain – although the Portuguese public health authority estimates that there are 4,030 people currently infected in the country. Sadly, Portugal reported its first coronavirus-related death on Monday 16th March, and anticipates more to come. The victim was an 80-year-old man with underlying health conditions. A former physical therapist for the Estrela da Amadora football team, he died after being hospitalised in Lisbon.
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New travel restrictions for tourists
Portugal declared a “state of alert” from the 13th March until April 9th, bringing new travel restrictions for tourists. Passengers on cruise ships aren’t allowed to disembark in Portuguese ports, and people flying into the islands – Madeira and the Azores – face quarantine procedures. This is regardless of whether they have symptoms, or have been in contact with confirmed coronavirus cases.
There have also been restrictions put in place between Portugal and Spain, with all flights between the two countries grounded and all rail travel brought to a halt. Goods will still be able to move freely between the two countries, so supermarket supplies shouldn’t be affected.
Portugal was quick off the mark, and has already stopped people from mingling as much as possible.
The government has already begun lockdown procedures
Portugal was quick off the mark, and has already stopped people from mingling as much as possible. Schools and universities have closed, nightclubs have shut their doors and there are limits to how many people can enter shops. Streets are almost deserted, with employees being actively encouraged to work from home if possible. Public offices, museums, cinemas, theatres and monuments have all closed, and the businesses that are open have restricted hours. Restaurants are also being asked to only accept one-third of their usual capacity so that people can sit a metre or more away from each other.
What is life like in Portugal just now?
We spoke to Aidan Cave (28), a trainee botanist based in the Alentejo, and he said: “everything is pretty much closed except pharmacies, supermarkets and petrol stations. People are queuing to get into small shops because they only let four people in at a time so it’s one in, one out. Other than that, nothing is much different.” Although it may seem inconvenient, he admires the Portuguese approach to social distancing: “Portugal is being really smart. For example in the Alentejo, people are being very considerate and always keep one metre away from each other.”
However, there are concerns that this may have a massive impact on the economy: especially in areas like the Algarve where tourism and hospitality are the main source of income. Ronny Porter (67), an expat based in São Bartolomeu de Messines, told us: “I feel for the people here who generally live from day to day. Now some of them aren’t able to work, and I doubt the tourist season will be any good.”
For more information about buying in Portugal and to help plan your purchase once this is over, don’t hesitate to contact your Portugal Property Specialist on +44(0)20 7898 0549 or email [email protected].
It’s all about ‘flattening the curve’
The measures taken by the Portuguese government may seem extreme in comparison to the UK and USA, but it’s especially important that the curve of infection is flattened. This means limiting the amount of contact people have with each other to reduce the risk of the healthcare system becoming overwhelmed. As more than a fifth of the Portuguese population are older than 65, and the Portuguese health service only has 225 beds for every 100,000 citizens, this could happen very easily.
Where to find more information
The coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented situation, and things are constantly changing. To stay up to date with what’s happening in Portugal, it’s a good idea to visit (and bookmark) the following websites:
- The World Health Organisation
- The Serviço Nacional de Saude (Portugal’s national health service)
- The Direção-Geral de Saude (Portugal’s public health authority)
Stay safe, and stay at home
If you were planning a trip to Portugal in the coming weeks – either for a holiday or a property-hunting mission – it’s best to cancel if you can and stay at home. Many airlines, including easyJet and Ryanair, are offering free flight changes. Airbnb is also offering free cancellation on properties booked before March 14th for stays commencing before April 14th. In the meantime, take advantage of the ‘lull’ to speak to estate agents, lawyers and your currency specialist. That way, you’ll be in a position to buy as soon as possible afterwards. Simply fill in our enquiry form below with your requirements.
We hope to see you in Portugal once this is all over.