Lisbon, May 19 (IANS) Portugal started on Monday the second phase of lifting restrictions imposed earlier to combat the COVID-19 pandemic with the opening of several services and businesses. However, hygiene rules, social distancing restrictions and capacity limitations remain in force.
Cafes, restaurants (also with outdoor terraces), museums and shops up to 400 square meters can now reopen after weeks of confinement, Xinhua news agency reported.
Prime Minister Antonio Costa had his morning coffee at a pastry shop in Lisbon's Benfica neighbourhood in an attempt to encourage “normal” activity.
The head of government stressed the need to respect the health and safety measures, such as the use of disinfectant gels, keeping a distance between tables and employees wearing masks or gloves.
He appealed to the Portuguese to resume “their life in freedom, overcome fears, with confidence but always with caution.”
Safety was also the watchword when about 80 per cent of students in the last two years of high school returned to the country's over 500 schools. Daycare centres also reopened on Monday.
The National Association of School Leaders (ANDE) said that some teachers were absent from this resumption of face-to-face classes either for fear of infection with the novel coronavirus or for a history of diseases.
“We knew that at the beginning things would be more complicated, but as families realize that everything is going well, the number of students should increase,” ANDE President Manuel Pereira was quoted by Lusa News Agency as saying.
The National Federation of Teachers (Fenprof) has accused the Ministry of Education of “imprudence” in preparing for the reopening of schools.
Fenprof Secretary General Mario Nogueira said that the government should have screened the students for COVID-19 infection because young people, in most cases, are asymptomatic.
“There is a sense of insecurity among teachers. What the schools could do, they did, including cleaning, preparing rooms, coordinating schedules,” he told reporters.
“Teachers will have to be more cautious and strict in demanding that all health safety regulations are respected,” he said.
Secretary of State for Health Antonio Lacerda Sales said at his daily news conference that it is “a duty to scrupulously respect the rules” set by the health authorities in this period of uncertainty.
He asked people to behave responsibly and with civility because “each action has an impact on the others” and “we all continue to be public health agents.”
Lacerda Sales said that in this second phase of reopening, it is not possible to “waver, nor relax.”
“We are on the first day of the second phase of deconfinement. It is natural that people are afraid as they were when it was necessary to retire. It is a path that we will take collectively with awareness, responsibility and civility,” he said.
However, he pointed out that 6,430 patients have recovered from COVID-19, which is an increase of 1,794 cases in the last 24 hours.
“Right now, 22 percent of the confirmed cases are considered recovered. It is the biggest increase in the number of recoveries,” he said.
Portugal on Monday registered 13 more deaths related to the novel coronavirus, totalling 1,231 fatalities.
As of Monday, there had been 29,209 cases of infection, an increase of 173 cases over Sunday, according to the epidemiological bulletin issued by the Directorate General for Health.