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Coffees and creches: Portuguese enjoy some normality again

Reuters | Updated: 18-05-2020 16:53 IST | Created: 18-05-2020 16:53 IST
Coffees and creches: Portuguese enjoy some normality again

Cafes served morning coffee, creches reopened and masked pupils went back to school for the first time in months as Portugal entered a second phase of its lockdown exit on Monday.

Still, an abundance of rules to prevent a second coronavirus wave - from shifts for school classes to number limits in restaurants - showed life was still far from normal. Only students in the last two years of high school returned for face-to-face classes, lining up outside school gates for temperature checks before going in.

"These safety measures make sense. You have to have them because we need face-to-face classes to prepare for exams," said Bernardo Cruz, 17, as he waited to get in to Dom Pedro V Secondary School in Lisbon, where gloved and masked staff handed out face gear to students who had forgotten theirs. "I've been dying to get back to classes ... we are used to understanding looks, expressions," added maths teacher Dulce Sousa at the same school. "I hope they learned something online but nothing substitutes a teacher."

"DOESN'T LOOK GOOD" Emboldened by the slowdown of cases - now at 29,036 confirmed with 1,218 deaths - the government said on Friday the country was ready for the second phase of its exit plan. That meant opening kindergartens, shops up to 400 square metres, schools, restaurants, museums and art galleries.

Restaurants were doubtful they could last long under heavy capacity restrictions - and lower demand. "We're only allowed a third of our capacity, and we might not even get that, with tourists not around," said Diogo Silva, a waiter at a Portuguese food restaurant in Lisbon.

"We'll try our best, but it doesn't look good," he said, standing at the door and fiddling with his mask as fellow staff shuffled tables around the one-room restaurant now only allowed to serve up to eight customers at a time. One in a hundred businesses across the country have already shut down since the start of the pandemic, the National Institute of Statistics (INE) said last Monday, while 1.3 million of the country's 4.9 million workers were temporarily laid off as businesses closed doors during the lockdown.

The country's gross domestic product (GDP) contracted 3.9% between January and March compared to the last quarter of 2019, INE said on Friday, with much of the decline explained by a drastic drop in tourism. "Of course we want to open. But we're looking at much lower revenue with virtually the same costs," Ana Jacinto, head of restaurant and hotel association AHRESP, told Reuters.

"We're worried there'll be no money in the bank at the end of the month."


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