LISBON, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced on Thursday new social distancing measures that will take effect on Sept. 15. The government's aim is to ensure a safe return to school and to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Costa spoke after a Council of Ministers' meeting, acknowledging that there was "an evolution of the pandemic with a steady increase in new cases," but stressing that this was "predictable, given the return to normal activity and the reopening of the school year."
The measures announced by Costa include a countrywide limit on gatherings to "a maximum of ten people." In restaurants and cafes "there cannot be more than four people per group in order to avoid large concentrations of people."
Commercial establishments will only be allowed to open from 10 a.m., and the mayors of the country's municipalities will be authorized to set closing times between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.
The sale of alcoholic beverages at gas stations will be prohibited after 8 p.m., and only restaurants serving meals will be allowed to sell such products after that time. The consumption of alcoholic beverages in public areas will also be prohibited.
The prime minister said that the distribution of personal protective equipment and compliance with sanitary rules will be guaranteed in all schools in Portugal. The new rules will prohibit the gathering of more than four people in any establishment located within 300 meters of schools.
Costa said that fan attendance at sporting events will continue to be prohibited during the month of September.
"It is absolutely crucial to keep the pandemic in check... It depends fundamentally on each citizen to keep the pandemic under control and thereby to enable the country's economic and social recovery," he said.
Portugal has reported three more deaths and 585 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours. The total death toll now stands at 1,852 with 62,126 confirmed infections. Enditem