AS Portugal slowly begins to ease its lockdown measures businesses now begin a long road to recovery with the hope of survival.
After a six-week lockdown when people were urged to stay indoors, and most non-essential services were shut, a three-phase plan began this week to open up different sectors every 15 days, starting with small neighbourhood shops and hairdressers among others. But businesses must follow strict safety and capacity restrictions.
At hairdressers, for example, staff members must wear protective equipment, hand sanitiser must be available and customers are only allowed in with a pre-booked appointment.
The use of masks is now obligatory in enclosed public spaces like supermarkets and on public transport, with rule-breakers risking fines of up to €350. Working from home is still recommended where possible, and gatherings must be limited to 10 people.
Due to the tough rules still in place, businesses are gearing up for the challenges ahead.
If the spread of Coronavirus continues to slow, bigger stores, restaurants, museums and coffee shops will reopen on May 18, again at a reduced capacity.
The outbreak is set to leave long-lasting scars on the country’s once-bailed out, tourism-dependent economy, with the International Monetary Fund forecasting Portugal’s gross domestic product to contract by 8 per cent this year.
Around one in five workers in Portugal has been laid off since the pandemic began, with unemployment rocketing to 380,832 people or 6.4 per cent.