Portugal reopens its border with Spain and accelerates its deconfinement

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LISBON | Portugal will reopen its land border with Spain on Saturday and will enter the same day, 48 hours earlier than expected, in the fourth and final phase of its deconfinement plan begun in mid-March, Prime Minister Antonio announced Thursday evening. Costa.

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“On May 1, we will move on to the next phase of deconfinement, with in particular the reopening of the border with Spain”, he declared during a press conference at the end of a council of ministers devoted to measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to the lifting of border controls, which had been reestablished at the end of January, this easing of health restrictions will allow the organization of gatherings, such as wedding parties for example, in enclosures limited to 50% of their capacity. .

All outdoor sports activities and in the sports halls will again be authorized. In addition, cafes and restaurants, shops and cultural spaces will see their opening hours extended, in particular at weekends.

On the night of Friday to Saturday, the state of health emergency, which had been in force since November, will be downgraded to a “situation of calamity”, a legal framework which will still allow the authorities to maintain certain restrictions still in force, such as the closure of bars and nightclubs, and the call for home confinement and teleworking whenever possible.

Travel restrictions to Portugal, with the requirement of a negative test or quarantine for visitors from the most affected countries, will also be maintained, Costa said.

In a dozen municipalities with a higher incidence rate, the restrictions will remain more severe than in the rest of the territory, he said.

Portugal was hit at the start of the year by a violent explosion of COVID-19 cases, which overwhelmed the country’s hospitals and caused a total death toll of around 17,000 for a population of around 10 million. inhabitants.

But, testifying to the respite offered by a strict two-month confinement, Portugal experienced a day without any deaths this week for the first time since early August.

And, after a peak of nearly 13,000 daily contaminations reached at the end of January, the number of new cases per day has remained stable since the start of deconfinement, around 500 contagions.

After the reopening of primary schools, six weeks ago, began in early April that of colleges, cafes and restaurants terraces and street shops.

In mid-April, the Portuguese were able to gain access to the interior of restaurants and cafes, high schools and universities, shopping malls, cinemas and theaters.

From Thursday and Friday, associations representative of the organizers of shows and music festivals will organize in Braga the first tests for future large gatherings, with a comedy show and a concert that will bring together some 400 spectators in the open air kept at a strict distance. social.