Business in Portugal, just as in the rest of the world, came to a halt as a result of Covid19 pandemic. The Prime Minister of the Iberian country, Antonio Costa, prepares to restart business activities in Portugal in May, although the exact date is not yet set. Portugal recently extended its State of Emergency until May which means that a two-week extension is implemented. Antonio Costa also warned people that the lockdown may continue until 17th of May. Everyone expects Portugal to reopen after that date.
The Prime Minister says that whenever the lockdown ends, the risks of Covid19 will continue to threaten life. However, economists believe that there should be no more postponements to protect the economy. A recent meeting between the Prime Minister, representatives from INE (National Statistics Institute, The Council of Public Finances, Bank of Portugal, ISEG (Lisbon School of Economics, and the Catholic University played the role of conveying the concerns of economists and business people to the government. At this meeting, methods and policies that could be applied during the recovery period have been discussed. The parties conversed about how businesses can adapt to this new normality and how the economy can be revived without relying on too much human interaction and social assembly. Antonio Costa suggested before the meeting that whatever decision is made, the path will be “progressive, slow, and not without mistakes or changes of direction”.
The European Commission also started planning for reopening businesses and provided members with an exemplary methodology. These methods have not been applied by any country at the moment, but they are known to include a gradual return to normality where economy is resuscitated with small steps at first. According to a news media source Expresso, the European Commission’s methods suggest opening “little shops, then restaurants, and only at the end places that bring large numbers of people together.” The decision is hard: one side of the coin shows a very real threat to the public health that could not be contained yet, and the other side shows devastating blows to the economy of the country.
The consensus at the meeting was that the economy simply cannot wait for months of quarantine and stagnation. A group of business experts from varied areas suggests more progressive steps to be taken such as wide usage of masks to return to daily routines, more widely applied home-office strategies, and increased testing for Covid19. According to the group, it is not “possible to suspend economic activity until there is no risk of contagion.” The current method to start going back to normal instructed by the Portuguese Council of Medical Schools (CEMPA) and American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and described by Diario de Noticias, involves usage of masks by everyone and providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to everyone.
Although it is not possible to go back to normal entirely in an instance, business and finance experts suggest that reopening activities as soon as possible is a good idea. Antonio Costa’s decision on the date of returning to business will depend on the advice of the experts, and the recommendations by experts suggest going back to business before it is too late.