Portugal schools will reopen on Monday as part of a phased plan to ease Covid-19 restrictions, the prime minister said.
Reopenings “must be gradual, cautious,” said Prime Minister Antonio Costa as he spoke of the plans on Thursday to ease the lockdown in place since mid-January.
“Despite the extraordinary effort of schools … in the face of this new variant and the velocity of its transmission, we must exercise precaution and interrupt all school activities for the next 15 days,” Costa said.
Portugal suffered the worst rate of coronavirus infections in the world in January apart from microstates, but has since seen a sharp drop in the number of new cases.
Some businesses considered non-essential such as bookstores and hair salons will also reopen Monday as will libraries.
Secondary schools, outdoor seating for cafes and restaurants and monuments and museums will follow two weeks later.
High schools, universities, theatres and indoor dining limited to four people per table will reopen in mid-April.
Large events with certain restrictions will be permitted from May 3.
“Today we are clearly under the alert threshold,” Costa said, stressing however that the plan would be “re-evaluated every 15 days.”
Other aspects such as home working and limitations on travel between cities in Portugal will remain in place for now.
The arrival of the more contagious British variant of the virus helped bring about the surge in cases in January in the country of 10 million people.
It had led to numerous hospitals being overwhelmed, particularly in the Lisbon region.
The two months lockdown, that will now come to a slow end, aimed to curb a deadly virus surge that brought Portugal to front of the number of cases and deaths per number of people.
Portugal, a country of 10 million people, reported a total of 800,000 cases of confirmed COVID-19 infections and 16,635 related deaths.
Safety was also the watchword when about 80 percent of students in the last two years of high school returned to the country’s over 500 schools. Daycare centres also reopened on Monday.
The National Association of School Leaders (ANDE) said that some teachers were absent from this resumption of face-to-face classes either for fear of infection with the novel coronavirus or for a history of diseases.