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

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 provide appropriate documentation.

This could either be:

  • A vaccination certificate
  • A negative coronavirus test
  • Proof of recovery

The move comes in an attempt to contain a worrying rise of daily cases in recent weeks.

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

Thousands of new daily cases

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 10.30 p.m., 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.

“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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