Portugal: PM rules out restrictions on flights between mainland, Azores, Madeira

Portugal’s prime minister, António Costa, has ruled out restrictions on flights between mainland Portugal and the autonomous regions of the Azores and Madeira, as part of the new general lockdown imposed from midnight on Thursday due to the Covid-19 pandemic, saying that “there will never be” any such restrictions.

As for Portugal’s land borders with Spain, “cross-border travel is defined and remains in force,” the prime minister said at a briefing on Wednesday following the cabinet meeting that approved the measures. He ruled out border control measures of the kind that were imposed “exceptionally and temporarily” during the first lockdown of the pandemic, in force in March and April of last year.

Presenting the lockdown measures, Costa highlighted the return to the duty to stay at home, with the exception that all educational establishments remain “in full operation”.

Asked about air links to and from Portugal, the prime minister said that the “restrictions that are in place and that had recently been renewed” were still in place, without providing further information.

“We have never introduced any restrictions on flights to the autonomous regions [of the Azores and Madeira] and the principle of territorial continuity must be ensured,” he said. “On our part, there will never be any restrictions on flights to or from the autonomous regions.”

In the first lockdown last year, Portugal’s national flag carrier, TAP, continued flights to and from the autonomous regions, while the SATA group decided to stop inter-island links in the Azores and flights to and from the region – measures that were defined by the Azores regional government, acting as SATA’s sole shareholder.

As part of the new lockdown, Portugal’s president on Wednesday decreed a renewal in the state of emergency currently in place to Thursday, for a further fortnight until 30 January, to allow new measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

Worldwide, the pandemic has claimed at least 1,963,557 lives as a result of more than 91.5 million cases of infection.

In Portugal there have been 8,080 deaths associated with Covid-19 out of 496,552 confirmed cases of infection, according to the latest bulletin from the Directorate-General for Health.

The disease is transmitted by a new coronavirus detected at the end of December 2019 in Wuhan, a city in central China.