Portugal Shuts Down Commercial Flights During Easter

The government of Portugal has decided to close all the country’s airports over the busy Easter period in an attempt to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus.  When announcing the restriction, Prime Minister António Costa said that the new measures would begin from midnight on April 9th and run until midnight on April 13th.

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Portugal will close all airports for five days over Easter. Photo: Getty Images

“The virus doesn’t travel by itself,” Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa told reporters. “This Easter period is a particularly critical time and that’s why it is essential to restrict movement in the national territory.”

Easter is normally a busy travel period

The closure of Portuguese airports will affect low-cost carrier Ryanair with flights from the U.K. to Lisbon one of the few routes the airline is still flying. The closure will come as no surprise to TAP Portugal. The national flag carrier has already grounded thousands of flights and furloughed up to 90% of its workforce. The only remaining routes TAP is flying are for the repatriation of Portuguese citizens stranded abroad, as well as medical cargo, and flights to the Azores and Madeira.

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Ryanair was still flying from the U.K. to Lisbon. Photo: Ryanair

Easter has traditionally been a popular time for Portuguese living abroad to return home and visit their families, but this year things are different. Not only is the Portuguese government closing its airports to commercial traffic, but it has also banned citizens from traveling outside of the municipalities where they live, unless it is to go to their jobs.

When the five-day Easter lockdown is over, airports will be allowed to reopen. However, all flights will be restricted to carrying one-third of their normal passenger capacity. Costa also said that gatherings of more than five people will continue to be banned except for large families.

Portugal is releasing prisoners

In another move related to the current coronavirus outbreak, the government has decided to pardon prisoners who have been given a two year or less sentence as well as those with less than two years remaining on their sentences. The pardons will not apply to prisoners who are in jail for committing murder or other violent crimes such as domestic abuse.

These new measures were announced the same days as the Portuguese Parliament approved a 15-day extension of the state of emergency in the hope of curtailing the COVID-19 outbreak.

 “If decreeing a state of emergency was necessary 15 days ago, it is essential that we renew it today,” Prime Minister Antonio Costa told parliament. “All the effort we have made so far will be compromised if it does not continue.”

Portugal Shuts Down Commercial Flights During Easter
TAP Portugal has temporarily laid-off 90% of its staff. Photo: TAP Portugal

As of today, Sunday, April 5th, Portugal has reported 10,524 cases of coronavirus and 266 related deaths.

Portugal will provide financial support

To help support workers, the government has agreed to pay financial support to those hardest hit by the economic fallout from the pandemic and is arranging credit lines for businesses impacted by the current crisis. While talking about the above measures, lawmakers appealed to the banks to step up their support for people and businesses. Opposition leader, Rui Rio said it would be an “embarrassment” if banks were to post profits while everyone else was suffering.

“Banks owe a lot to the Portuguese. Now it is their obligation to help,” he said. “They must not benefit from this crisis.”

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