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19 Mar 2020 | 08:44 PM UTC

Portugal: Government implements state of emergency measures due to COVID-19 March 19 /update 5

Portuguese authorities implement tighter restrictions following state of emergency declaration due to COVID-19 on March 19; further spread of the virus expected



On Thursday, March 19, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa announced stricter containment measures after a state of emergency was declared in the country on Wednesday, March 18, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The measures will last for 15 days starting from midnight (local time) on March 19.

Individuals infected with the virus will be required to undergo mandatory self-isolation. The government has reiterated that violation of this requirement will constitute a "crime of disobedience." During the state of emergency, security forces will be permitted to send home people who breach self-isolation requirements. In addition, elderly over the age of 70 years or those with existing health conditions are advised to stay at home unless necessary. To prevent further spread of the virus, members of the public are advised to stay home as much as possible. All commercial establishments will also be closed except for bakeries, supermarkets, gas stations, and pharmacies. Schools have also been closed from Monday, March 16, through Thursday, April 9, as a precautionary measure.

From midnight on Wednesday, March 18, flights to countries outside the EU/EEA, except for the UK, US, Canada, Venezuela, South Africa, and Portuguese speaking countries will be suspended. Flights to Brazil will be limited to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, while flights to and from Italy remain suspended. Tighter border controls on Portugal's land border with Spain remains in place from Monday, March 16, until Wednesday, April 15. Only cross border workers, goods traffic, and individuals returning to their place of residence will be allowed to travel across the border.

According to authorities, there are 785 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, including three fatalities and three recoveries. Further international spread of the virus is expected over the near term. 


The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.

Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.


Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly, and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.

To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:

  • Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
  • If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.