Portugal, before the outbreak, had been investing in its Healthcare to bring it back to its pre-2008 financial crisis level. However, despite this, Portugal was at a disadvantage, only having 4.2 beds per 100,000 people compared to Spain’s 9. March 2, Portugal reported its first cases of coronavirus. Portugal was lucky as it experienced the virus a month after Spain and Italy, which allowed it to observe what was effective and what wasn’t.
March 16, with 245 confirmed cases, Portugal closed all educational institutions and bars, gatherings of over 100 people. Although, it was later decreased with the enaction of the state of emergency to 5 unrelated people and working from home expected when available.
Portugal declared a state of emergency on March 19, constitutionally, a state of emergency may only last 15 days with the option of review and renewal. It gives the Government the power to order the production of goods, deploy the military, and set the price of goods. The Government has allowed immigrants and asylum seekers the rights of Citizens until July 1, to increase access to medical care. The Army has been deployed but on humanitarian grounds distributing food to the poor.
The Government has forbad citizens from leaving the place of residences for unnecessary reasons. This has been enforced with drones. In terms of international travel, all flights were banned, with the exception of flights from Portuguese speaking countries, USA, UK, Canada, Venezuela, and South Africa. With the exception of April 9-13, when to avoid expected travel around Easter, the Government prevented all flights, not repatriating citizens. Portugal also closed its border with Spain, with the exception of the movement of goods and labor.
Portugal’s response to the crisis was met with complete political unity around the management of the virus. With political parties and the people mainly supporting the Government’s actions. This, coupled with a centralized Healthcare system, allowed the Government to prevent the outbreak from getting out of hand.
The virus is expected to take a lasting toll on the Portuguese economy, due to the importance of the tourism and hospitality industry. On March 18, the Government announced EUR 9.2 billion bailout, with soft loans and delaying taxes. The EU commission authorized EUR 13 billion to assist Portugal in its economic recovery. Credit lines have been set up for companies.
Despite the outbreak, Portugal has not experienced any decrease in foreign investment. Although the economy is expected to decrease by 8%, with the unemployment expected to hit 13.9% in order to maintain a level of consumption, Throughout the Crisis Workers working from home would receive 66% of their wages (or to the minimum wage), with half paid by the Government, in order to prevent layoffs.
Portugal has begun to lift the restrictions, with the state of emergency being lifted on May 3. In later May, larger stores, daycare, senior High school Cafes, and restaurants will be allowed to open with social distancing restrictions, limited occupancy, facemasks, and barriers between staff and customers. However, Shopping Malls, Bars, Pre-School, Movie Theaters, and Gyms are to be closed until June 1, depending on the state of the virus.
Portugal has largely been praised for it’s handling of the pandemic; however, it was also lucky due to the timing of its infections. Its strength in Government allowed it to get what needed to be done, and the lack of opposition from the opposition served the country well.
Written by Joseph Dillingham, May 2020.