Stricter COVID-19 rules and absent tourists put Portugal’s restaurants in tough spot

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LISBON: Lisbon’s restaurant owners, already struggling to survive without the usual hordes of summer tourists, expressed consternation at a new measure implemented on Saturday requiring tests or a vaccination certificate to sit indoors.

“I think it’s a positive measure if a lot more certificates are made available to clients,” said Manuel Jorge Alves, 48, owner of a traditional Portuguese restaurant in a street not far from Lisbon’s riverfront.

“But for the moment it’s about 2 million Portuguese … that’s one in five. And we’ve not had demand from tourists, because there have been restrictions on travel. This area is dependent on tourism.”

As of Saturday, Portugal’s government imposed a new measure demanding that those wishing to dine indoors in 60 municipalities with high rates of COVID-19 infections had to present a vaccination certificate, a negative coronavirus test or proof of recovery, in an attempt to contain a worrying rise of daily cases in recent weeks.

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Porto

People dine at a restaurant, on the day that Portugal’s government imposed stricter rules in an attempt to bring under control a surge of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, in Porto, Portugal, July 10, 2021. REUTERS/Violeta Santos Moura

READ: Negative COVID-19 test, vaccination required to stay in Portuguese hotels

READ: Portugal’s Madeira to allow visitors with COVID-19 shots not approved by EU

Restaurant customers must use the EU digital COVID-19 certificate.

The country of 10 million people reported 3,162 new daily cases on Saturday and six deaths, mirroring figures last seen in February when it was under a strict lockdown.

Under current measures, restaurants in high-risk areas must close at 10.30pm, and limit the number of people per table to six outdoors and four indoors.

As cases began to spiral, the government ordered two weeks ago that restaurants close after lunch on weekends – but as of this week a new measure requiring the digital EU certificate or test has come into force. Measures are reviewed every Thursday.

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Porto

A woman sits in a restaurant, on the day that Portugal’s government imposed stricter rules in an attempt to bring under control a surge of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, in Porto, Portugal, July 10, 2021. REUTERS/Violeta Santos Moura

“I think it’s a good measure, but I think it needs to be done better,” said Hernani Miguel, owner of a lively restaurant and bar serving African and Portuguese cuisine.

“If you can come in with a certificate, once people are in the space, why can’t we extend opening hours, as long as people have the certificate? I think this is a question all restaurants owners agree on.”

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