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World News

Assent, anger as Portugal's COVID-19 state of emergency begins

LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal woke up on Monday to a state of emergency, with some welcoming new restrictions to contain the coronavirus and others blaming the government for responding too late with measures they labelled confusing or inadequate.

FILE PHOTO: A waiter wearing a face mask waits for customers at a restaurant during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in downtown Lisbon, Portugal November 6, 2020. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante/File Photo

Night-time curfews are in force, while people will also not be able to leave home between 1 p.m. and 5 a.m. over the next two weekends across 121 municipalities, including Lisbon and Porto. The state of emergency can be extended indefinitely in 15-day periods.

In Lisbon’s Campo de Ourique neighbourhood, restaurant owner Maria Tomas, 62, said the weekend measure would hit business hard but she saw no alternative as the number of daily cases keeps rising.

“It will be tough because we already spent months at home,” she said. “But what can we do? If the new rules help to save some lives, I think this is positive.”

In central Porto, several dozen restaurant workers rallied against the measures which they said were killing the sector.

Restaurants have to shut at 10.30 p.m. during weekdays, and over the next two weekends they will only be allowed to provide takeaway services after 1 p.m.

“These measures were very poorly done because they should have been implemented a long time ago,” said Carlos Alves, 69, as he walked down an emptier than usual Lisbon street. “I have no hope at all.”

Portugal, with just over 10 million people, has recorded a comparatively low 179,324 cases and 2,896 deaths but infections hit 6,640 cases on Saturday, the highest daily figure since the pandemic started. Testing has also increased.

Some residents blamed the government for not using the summer lull to tackle the pandemic and allowing mass events to take place, from political rallies to sports events.

“It’s total disorganisation,” said Lisbon resident Mario Costa. “We expected a little more from the government.”

Reporting by Catarina Demony and Miguel Pereira, Editing by Andrei Khalip and Janet Lawrence

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