Government closes schools and universities nationwide as a means to slow Covid-19 spread
Prime-minister Antonio Costa has revealed plans to shut down all schools nationwide from next week to contain the Covid-19 epidemic, which during televised address to the nation yesterday.
The suspension of classes encompasses all the education system from kindergartens to universities, both public and private, and will be in force until further evaluation on April 9th. There are about 2 million school children in Portugal, a nation of just over 10 million people.
Costa also said cruise ships would not be allowed to disembark passengers except those residing in Portugal, night clubs will be shut and there would be capacity restrictions on entry to shopping malls and restaurants.
“This is a fight for our very survival, the government is determined to adopt every measure necessary,” Costa said.
Portugal has so far reported 78 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with 6 of those being in the Algarve, far below the 3,004 in neighbouring Spain where 84 people have died.
Dozens of schools and various universities across Portugal have been shut for several days after tests revealed the virus in pupils or teachers.
“The pandemic has not reached its peak. The situation is evolving and it is highly likely that in the coming weeks more people will be infected, and it could be a more lasting outbreak than initially imagined,” Costa added.
He did not announce any specific measures to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis, which has already hit the hotel industry of the tourism-dependent economy, but said the government would seek to support workers and incomes of those who will stay at home due to the shutdowns.
Earlier on Thursday, Portugal’s AHP hotels association said the hotel sector could lose 30% to 50% of its revenues, or up to 800 million euros, between March and June.