Portugal takes further step to ease COVID-19 rules

A closed bar is seen on the first day that Britons are allowed to enter Portugal without needing to quarantine, as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions continue to ease, in Albufeira, Portugal, May 17, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes/File Photo

LISBON, June 2 (Reuters) - Portugal will allow restaurants to stay open past midnight from mid-June and will lift a work from home order as it takes a further step to ease COVID-19 restrictions, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said on Wednesday.

From June 14, restaurants, cafes and pastry shops, which now must close at 10.30 p.m., will be able to keep doors open until 1 a.m., and most public transport can return to operating at 100% capacity.

Costa told a news conference that although remote work will no longer be mandatory, it is still recommended. There are no more restrictions on stores' opening hours and cultural shows can go on until midnight under capacity restrictions.

Measures will be stricter in Portuguese municipalities where the COVID-19 incidence rate is high.

The country of just over 10 million, which suffered a devastating outbreak earlier this year, imposed a lockdown in January but has lifted many of the restrictions since.

The number of daily COVID-19 cases has slightly increased in recent days, with most new infections reported in and around Lisbon.

Bars and nightclubs will stay shut at least until the end of August and masks remain mandatory outdoors in crowded places.

Venues for amateur sports activities will be able to welcome back people from June 14 at reduced capacity, Costa said. Rules on access to stadiums where professional sports teams play are yet to be decided.

The decision came after Costa's government came under fire for allowing thousands of English fans into a Porto stadium to watch Saturday's Champions League final, upsetting locals who have been banned from attending matches for months. read more

All fans had to present a negative COVID-19 test on arrival in Portugal, which is on the British government's "green" list allowing people to visit without quarantining on their return.

Asked if he would impose restrictions on travel from Britain due to the highly contagious coronavirus variant spreading in parts of England after first being identified in India, Costa replied: "British tourists continue to be welcome."

Reporting by Catarina Demony and Patricia Rua; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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Thomson Reuters

Portugal-based multimedia correspondent reporting on politics, economics, the environment and daily news. Previous experience in local journalism in the UK., co-founded a project telling the stories of Portuguese-speakers living in London, and edited a youth-led news site.