Portugal reaches final phase of lockdown easing, land border with Spain reopens

Sergio Goncalves
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Controls at the Spanish-Portuguese border in Vilar Formoso

By Sergio Goncalves

LISBON (Reuters) - Most of Portugal's territory will proceed to the final phase of a gradual easing of COVID-19 restrictions from May 1 and the land border with Spain will reopen for normal travel after a three-month hiatus.

"This does not mean the country can consider the pandemic situation resolved," Prime Minister Antonio Costa told a news conference on Thursday. "Nothing is guaranteed for the future, as this is a daily struggle."

Portugal, a nation of just over 10 million, imposed a strict lockdown in January to tackle what was then the world's worst coronavirus surge, which took the public health system to the verge of collapsing.

Lockdown restrictions started to be eased in mid-March and schools, restaurants and cafes, shopping malls, museums and other non-essential services have since reopened, but under strict rules to reduce risk of contagion.

From Saturday onwards, restaurants and cafes, which were for some time forced to shut their doors earlier, can keep them open until 10.30 p.m. and all sport activities can resume.

Big outdoors and indoors events will also be authorised under capacity restrictions. Weddings and baptisms can take place at 50% capacity, compared with 25% currently.

A total of 270 of mainland Portugal's 278 municipalities will transition to the last stage of the lockdown easing and from now on the government will assess the situation on a weekly basis instead of every two weeks.

Costa also announced that Portugal's 1,200-km (745.65 miles)land border with Spain will reopen for all travel on Saturday after more than three months of restrictions and border checks.

Portugal has suffered 836,033 cases and 16,974 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; editing by Andrei Khalip, Catarina Demony and Dan Grebler)