Paula Barroso’s bar in Lisbon has been shut for eight months and she already had to let some workers go due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Now she is scared she will not be able to make ends meets much longer.
Barroso, 54, was one of hundreds of bar, restaurant and nightclub workers who protested in Lisbon on Saturday as a partial weekend lockdown kicked in across most of the country.
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“We are in mourning and we have to survive,” Barroso said as she stood among a crowd calling on authorities to allow them to work. “The government does not support us and we cannot die, we cannot stay in the dark.”
Bars and nightclubs have been closed since March and although restaurants have since reopened, owners and workers fear that the new restrictions to fight the virus could kill the sector.
At weekends, a lockdown is in place from 1 p.m. to 5 a.m., during which all commercial outlets and restaurants must shut, although there are some exceptions. A night-time curfew is also in force during weekdays.
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Portuguese chef Paulo Silva said a recent 25 million-euro ($30 million) government scheme allowing restaurants to apply for compensation to make up for income lost over the weekend is not enough.
“I had 23 employees and I already had to fire eight,” said Silva, who has already closed one of his two restaurants. “It was the saddest day of my life and now I can’t take it anymore.”
The government of Prime Minister Antonio Costa says the new measures are necessary to bring the pandemic under control and avoid stricter restrictions next month.
The country of just over 10 million people has recorded 211,266 coronavirus cases and 3,305 deaths. Like much of the rest of Europe it is battling a second wave: infections hit 6,653 cases on Friday, the highest daily figure since the pandemic started.
“Companies are making an effort to carry on, but it can be the death of many because they can no longer bear it,” said 48-year-old chef Paula Janeiro.
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