A man wearing a face mask rides a bicycle in downtown Lisbon, Portugal, Nov. 9, 2020. (Photo by Pedro Fiuza/Xinhua)

Portuguese lap up lighter lockdown than last year

Portugal’s ten million people on Friday entered a new lockdown the government announced to check a resurgent novel coronavirus, though the curbs were less strict than during the first lockdown.

Streets in the centre of the capital Lisbon were quieter than usual, but many people left their homes, particularly to take their children to schools, which had been closed during the first lockdown.

“There are fewer people in the street but look, the buses are full! The metro (underground) was also full this morning,” said Maria Andrade, a 71-year-old who sold takeaway fare from her restaurant that was otherwise ordered closed.

Eduardo Carinho, who sells newspapers said: “Frankly, for me there is no lockdown. I don’t see it.”

He told AFP TV that shops and restaurants were really the only business that were closed.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced Wednesday a fresh lockdown following one in March-April 2020, meaning non-essential shops, cafes and restaurants will all close. This time the exceptions are schools, courts, churches and florists.

“The rule is simple,” said Costa. “Each one of us has to stay at home.”

People will also be able to leave their homes to vote in the first round of the presidential election on January 24. From Sunday, they will even be able to vote early if they want to.

But the authorities will require a negative coronavirus test for anyone flying into the country.

From November, the country has had some restrictions in place to try to stem the rising tide of coronavirus case, including limited lockdowns and curfews in the regions worst hit by the crisis.

But after the rules were relaxed over the holiday period, the number of cases rose.

On Wednesday, Portugal’s total caseload stood at just over 507,000 infections and 8,236 deaths.

“I fear that these new measures will not have much effect,” said Maria Teresa Gomes, a pensioner who finished a visit to the hospital and crossed the capital’s center on foot to get home.

Manuel Carvalho, who heads the country’s newspaper of reference, Publico, urged Portuguese to take the new measures seriously, warning in an editorial: “If the lockdown fails, the price will be very steep.”