The President of the Portuguese Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, declared the state of emergency on Thursday, March 19th, as a response to the Covid-19 crisis. This was an expected and almost obvious step after the deepening of the crisis in Europe, as the political mood changed very quickly in just a few days.
However, the state of emergency in itself is not a drastic change to the current Portuguese lifestyle – since the previous week. Through a massive mobilization in social media, motivated by the government health authorities and promoted by the traditional mass media, a considerable number of people started a voluntary period of isolation.
As of today, the country is still not in full lockdown, but most services to the public (restaurants, shops, etc.) are closed or functioning in take-away or home delivering only. Supermarkets and pharmacies are working normally, and there are no shortages of goods.
Almost no criticism
A poll in the day after stated that 90% of the Portuguese agreed with the issuing of the state of emergency by the authorities. This number reflects the unanimity reigning in the country towards the gravity of the situation and the need to self-containment measures.
The political consensus regarding the state emergency was evident in the Parliament votes (according to the Portuguese Constitution, the Parliament votes the issuing of the state of emergency proposed by the President). All parties voted in favour but the Liberals (equivalent to the Liberal Democrats), the Communists and the single no-party MP, who abstained; no one voted against.
In the press, the few critics (especially on the right, the main opposition to the Socialist government) were themselves divided. The liberal right-wing considered that the state of emergency could open a path to future authoritative measures by the Socialists; the conservative right-wing thought that the state of emergency came late and should have been issued sooner.
So far, Portugal is reacting as calmly and resiliently as possible.