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Meet the Law | Questions and answers on the implementation by the Government of the extension of the state of emergency

The President of the Republic of Portugal declared a State of Emergency in Portugal through Decree no. 14-A/2020, published on March 18, 2020. Also, the Portuguese Government established a set of exceptional measures in response to the COVID-19 disease pandemic, by publishing Decree no. 2-A/2020 on March 20, 2020.

By considering that the context that led to the approval of the declaration of the State of Emergency has remained, the President of the Republic of Portugal renewed Portugal's State of Emergency by publishing Decree no. 17-A/2020, on April 2, 2020. Consequently, the Portuguese Government established a set of additional exceptional measures aimed at reducing the risk of contagion and spread of COVID-19 disease, by publishing Decree no. 2-B/2020, of April 2, 2020.

Have the rules on mandatory confinement been changed?
No. The general population must remain in mandatory confinement, in a healthcare facility, at home, or at another location defined by the health authorities when it comes to:  

  1. Patients with COVID-19 and those infected with SARS-Cov2;   
  2. Citizens for whom the health authority or other health professionals have determined active surveillance.

The breach of this obligation constitutes a crime of disobedience.

Regarding the special duty of protection and the general duty of home-lockdown, are there any changes?
Without prejudice to the answer to the next question below, the measures are essentially unaltered. For the majority of population in Portuguese territory, the Government establishes that during the period of the state of emergency persons may circulate on public roads to carry out a wide range of activities, such as:  

  1. Acquisition of goods and services;
  2. Performance of professional activities, and/or job search, and/or response to a job offer;  
  3. Displacement for health reasons;
  4. Displacement to care for vulnerable persons, monitoring of minors, and other family reasons;
  5. Short walks for the purpose of enjoying moments in open air and physical activity (the exercise of collective physical activity is prohibited);
  6. Displacement to post offices, bank branches, insurance brokers or insurance companies;
  7. Short walks for the purpose of walking pets;
  8. Return to personal domicile;
  9. Displacements to participate in social volunteering activities;
  10. Other activities of a similar nature or for other reasons of force majeure or imperative need, provided they are duly justified.

For persons over 70 years of age and those immunosuppressed and chronically ill (such as hypertensives, diabetics, cancer patients, among others) it is established, more restrictively, that they may only circulate on public roads for any of the purposes mentioned in paragraphs 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, and 10 above.

What additional limitations are there to the movement of people?
In addition, the Government has established a limitation on Easter circulation. Thus, citizens may not move outside the municipality of usual residence in the period between 00:00 on April 9th and 24:00 on April 13th, except for reasons of health or other imperative urgency.

However, this restriction does not apply to health professionals and other workers in health and social support institutions, civil protection agents, security forces and services, military and civilian personnel of the Armed Forces and ASAE (Food and Economic Security Authority) inspectors, political officeholders, magistrates and leaders of the social partners, provided that they are exercising their functions. The restriction also does not apply to those performing professional activities permitted by the decree.

During the above-mentioned period, the workers who act in the performance of the professional activities admitted by the decree must circulate with a statement from their employer certifying that they are in the performance of their professional activities.

Finally, commercial passenger flights to, and from, national airports are not permitted during Easter. Without prejudice to emergency landings, humanitarian flights or flights for repatriation purposes.

With regard to the closure of facilities and establishments, are there relevant changes?
No, the previously approved measures are maintained. Thus, the obligation to close facilities and establishments where recreational, leisure and entertainment, cultural, artistic, sports, games and betting, and catering activities are carried out (except for the provision of take-away meals or home deliveries) continues to apply. Some examples of such facilities are: cinemas, libraries, gymnasiums, football fields, tennis courts, padel, bars, clubs, casinos, recreational parks, concert halls, among others.

Regarding the retail commerce what activities are suspended?
In maintaining the previous measures, the government has decreed that retail commerce activities are suspended, with the exception of those that provide basic necessities or other goods considered essential in the present situation such as: pharmacies, supermarkets, hypermarkets, bakeries, banks, tourist establishments, among many others. The suspension also does not apply to wholesale establishments or to establishments that intend to maintain their activity exclusively for the purpose of home delivery or availability of goods at the door of the establishment, or counter and serving window (case in which access to the inside of the establishment by the public is prohibited). In addition, retail commerce activities and service activities located along the motorway network, inside airports and in hospitals are not suspended.

What new rules are there concerning the exercise of economic activities?
The Government has approved specific rules on (i) itinerant vendors, (ii) rental of passenger vehicles without a driver, and (iii) funeral activity.

Thus, the Government has established that the exercise of activity by itinerant sellers is allowed, in order to make available goods of first necessity or other goods considered essential in the present juncture, in the localities where this activity is necessary to guarantee the access to essential goods by the population.

Regarding rent-a-car, the Government has established that the exercise of this activity is allowed in the following cases:  

  1. For journeys exceptionally authorised under the decree, namely journeys for the purchase of essential goods or services, in particular medicines, and journeys for health reasons or to assist other persons;    
  2. For the exercise of the activities of retail commerce or provision of services authorized under the decree or in a subsequent decree authorizing that exercise;
  3. For the provision of assistance to drivers and vehicles that are broken, immobilised or damaged;   
  4. When the vehicles are intended for the provision of essential public services or are contracted under the legal regime of the State vehicle park, provided for in Decree-Law no. 170/2008 of August 26th, as currently in force.  

Regarding the exercise of funeral activity, it was defined that the companies that perform funeral activity under the terms of Decree-Law no. 10/2015, January 16th, in its current wording, maintain their activity and perform the funeral services of the deceased diagnosed with COVID-19.

With regard to the free movement of goods, is there any special rule?
Yes. Although the free movement of goods was admitted by the previous Government decree, a rule has now been expressly established to clarify that restrictions on movement, including in municipalities where a health fence has been established, do not hinder the free movement of goods.

What is new in public health assurance?
The present decree issued by the Government provides for a wide range of powers in greater detail than the previous decree, to the members of the Government responsible for health matters.

Thus, a member of the Government responsible for health matters, has delegation authority and is competent to determine:  

  1. The exception measures applicable to the assistance activity performed by the services and establishments integrated in the National Health Service;
  2. The exceptional measures of articulation of the services and establishments integrated in the National Health Service with the health care provider services of the private and social sectors, in terms of health-care provision;
  3. The issuing of orders and instructions necessary to ensure the supply of goods and the operation of services and production centres affected by the shortage of products necessary to protect public health;
  4. The necessary measures and the practice of acts which, in the specific scope of its action, are appropriate and indispensable to guarantee normal conditions in the production, transport, distribution and supply of goods and services essential to the activity of the health sector;
  5. The temporary requisition of industries, factories, workshops, holdings or facilities of any kind, including private and social sector health services and establishments;
  6. The temporary requisition of all types of goods and services, including professionals, and the imposition of compulsory services on any entity, where appropriate and indispensable for the protection of public health, in the context of the emergency situation caused by the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic, as well as for the treatment of COVID-19.  

Without prejudice to the above, the member of the Government responsible for health matters, and with delegation authority, has the competence to determine the necessary exception measures, in the context of the emergency situation caused by the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic, as well as for the treatment of COVID-19, in relation to:   

  1. Circuits of medicinal products and medical devices, as well as other health products, biocides, disinfectant solutions, alcohol and personal protective equipment, namely in the scope of manufacture, distribution, marketing, importation, acquisition, dispensation and prescription, aimed at ensuring and enabling the supply, availability and access of the necessary products to health units, patients and other beneficiaries;
  2. Access to medicines, particularly experimental medicines, used in the context of the pandemic and the continuity of clinical trials;
  3. Access to medicines, particularly experimental medicines, used in the context of the pandemic and the continuity of clinical trials;
  4. Pre-export notification mechanisms for the goods referred to in paragraph 1 above in order to meet national requirements for these goods.

Finally, the member of the Government responsible for health matters, and with delegation authority, may determine the possibility for telecommunications operators to send their customers communications and written messages with alerts from the Directorate General of Health or others related to the fight against the pandemic. 

Authors

Picture of Monica Pacheco
Mónica Carneiro Pacheco
Partner
Lisbon
Picture of Duarte Lacerda
Duarte Lacerda
Associate
Lisbon