• 2020.06.23
  • Gradually reopening from COVID-19 restrictions
Another month, and the coronavirus is still all over the news.
Although the State of Emergency Declaration was extended, the government has now decided to move to Phase Three of easing restrictions, and domestic travel is ramping up again.

My feelings have changed from “let’s eat delicious food to build our immunity” to “we’ve got to really wash our hands well when we get home” to “I’m more afraid of giving it to someone than I am of getting it”. I’m feeling the easing up so much more internally than before. COVID-19 is almost starting to feel like a thing of the past.

Here in Portugal, they didn’t just take precautions on a national level. Even the schools changed at an alarming rate.
COVID-19 started spreading in Italy in March, and the teachers at my daughter’s school explained that the kids would have their temperatures taken twice a day. A few days later, the schools informed us that they were discussing the matter further—and a few days after that schools across the country shut down.
Assignments immediately started coming via app or cloud platforms, and interactive classes were held online up to twice a week. At that time, it was announced that Italy would keep its public schools closed for the third semester—until the new year started in September. Luckily we had a two-week Easter break in there, so we were able to prepare for the upcoming classes.
Naturally each school had its own way of doing things, but they also had television classes broadcast nationwide. The public broadcaster equivalent to Japan’s NHK turned entirely into an educational tool during the stay-home period due to COVID-19. There was a weekly schedule, with first- and second-grade social studies at a certain time on Mondays, first- through fourth-grade PE during certain hours on Tuesdays, and so on. The students would then watch and learn their lessons accordingly.
The schools also immediately started holding online Zoom classes, and the teachers immediately started adapting their lessons to the new format. Even my daughter’s surfing lessons went online—everything from muscle conditioning to watching pro surfers and lectures on waves.
This wasn’t a matter of people being uncomfortable with technology or only being able to use a flip phone—people just dove in and used whatever method held the most promise in terms of being able to continue holding class. I heard that the schools even set up tech support services for people who didn’t know how to operate their devices.

During the Easter break, computers were collected from public libraries and museums and loaned to families who didn’t have the equipment kids needed to do their lessons online—while the country and city helped out with internet services. Low-income families were also instantly provided with school lunches at an even greater discount.

Everything happened so quickly that the parents ended up getting swept up in changes they couldn’t keep up with.

Portugal announced that it would start gradually easing restrictions at the beginning of May. The policy was to lift the activity restrictions step by step while maintaining social distancing.
The key aspects of each phase of reopening were as follows.

1. Phase I (starting May 4)
• Mandatory quarantine for coronavirus patients and patients under supervision of health authorities
• General public was urged to stay at home
• Gatherings of ten or more were prohibited
• A maximum of five people were allowed in enclosed spaces of 100 m2
• Only immediate family were allowed at funerals
• Public transportation had to be at two-thirds capacity, with masks required for operators and passengers
• Companies had to continue allowing employees to work from home whenever possible
• Dispersed counter services at public facilities, by appointment only and with masks required
• Street-level shops up to 200 m2 in size (with doors to remain open), salons, hairstylists, and other beauty services were allowed to open along with bookstores and car dealerships (regardless of size) across the country (masks required, stores open at 10 AM or later, salons and other beauty services were by appointment only, restaurants had to be at 50% capacity or less and close by 11 PM)
• Libraries and archives could open, individual outdoor sports were allowed (though changing rooms and pools had to remain closed)

2. Phase II (starting May 18)
• Street-level shops up to 400 m2 or shops with space equivalent to 400 m2 (determined by district for those larger than 400 m2), as well as restaurants, cafeterias, and outdoor cafés could resume operations
• Senior high schools (11th and 12th grade, equivalent to second- and third-year high schoolers in Japan), facilities for the disabled, daycare centers (parents could also choose to apply for a home daycare subsidy) were allowed to open
• Health agencies and religious groups began coordinating to reinstate religious ceremonies, and the top soccer league Primeira Liga and the Portuguese Cup reopened on May 30–31.
• Art museums, monuments, palaces, art galleries, exhibition halls, and similar facilities reopened

3. Phase III (starting June 1)
• People were allowed to return to work in groups with staggered scheduling
• Locations offering local government services resumed
• Shops sized 400 m2 or more were allowed to reopen, along with those in shopping malls and other commercial facilities
• Daycare nurseries, preschools, and after-school activity services could reopen
• Movie theaters, museums, auditoriums, and concert halls could reopen (with limited occupancy and physical distancing)

Each of these measures was also reviewed and updated every fifteen days.

Prime Minister Costa announced that his “stay at home” message has not changed, and the easing of restrictions does not mean that life is returning to normal.

It seems like a very fair approach that is extremely easy for the citizens to understand.
Meanwhile, I’m paying more attention so that we can all get back to normal life as soon as possible—eating better and practicing good hygiene so I can set a good example for others.


  • Megumi Ota
  • JobConservator, interpreter, and coordinator / Insitu (restoration), Kaminari-sama / Novajika, and others

I’m a conservator and preservationist living in Portugal. I specialize primarily in paintings (murals) and gold leaf design, and am involved with UNESCO World Heritage structures as well as the interior of the Palace of Belém. I derive great satisfaction from having close ties to my community in the rural village near the Silver Coast where I live. My hobby is gardening.

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