Portugal PM Costa asks president to declare Coronavirus emergency

A woman protects herself from the rain with an umbrella during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in downtown Lisbon, Portugal

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa requested the country’s president on Monday to declare a state of emergency as a preventive measure to fight the spread of COVID at a time when infections are rising.

The last COVID-19 state of emergency, which under Portuguese law is limited to 15 days but can be extended indefinitely in 15-day periods if necessary, was declared by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa in March and lasted six weeks.

“It is a critical moment and declaring the…emergency will reinforce the civic awareness of the sanitary emergency we are facing,” Costa told reporters, adding the move was likely to last much longer than just 15 days.

The president was expected to proclaim the emergency in a televised address on Monday evening and then parliament would then have to enact it – both considered formalities.

On Saturday, the government introduced measures, such as the civic duty – a recommendation rather than rule – to stay at home except for outings for work, school or shopping, across 121 municipalities including in the key regions of Lisbon and Porto.

A state of emergency would clear the way for compulsory measures such as tough restrictions on movement of people, a suspension of the right to strike and further curbs on public gatherings.

Costa said the emergency would not be as sweeping as in March but a nightly curfew could be implemented if needed to limit contagion of the virus in social settings.

Portugal, with just over 10 million people, has recorded a comparatively low 144,341 cases and 2,544 deaths from COVID-19. But daily new cases reached 4,656 on Friday, the highest since the pandemic began. Testing for the virus has also increased.

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