Update March 19, 6 PM: State of emergency, no excessive restrictions for now
As expected, last night the state of emergency was declared in Portugal, including the autonomous regions of Madeira and Açores. Today, we really were expecting heavy measures and further restrictions, but fortunately, for now, there haven’t been any that weren’t already in place. Compulsory quarantine for people disembarking from abroad, including the Portuguese mainland, stays in place, possibly with more security personnel to ensure people comply. We have been asked by the president of the regional government, in a press conference this afternoon, to stay at home and only go out if we have to. Supermarkets remain open, but only a limited number of customers are allowed in at one time, in relation to the size of the shop. Other businesses can usually stay open, but most bars and restaurants have closed anyway. We shall wait for at least 24 hours to see if this situation remains unchanged, and give you an update if it changes. For now, we feel, we can live with it, fortunately, we have a beautiful garden and a fantastic view and plenty of things to keep us occupied. Stay safe!
Update March 18, 5.30 PM. The state of emergency is about to be declared by the Portuguese government
As always, no one knows exactly what that entails. The minister of tourism of Madeira has said that ‘we have to double the effort to get the tourists to leave the island’. That doesn’t help much. The prime minister has already made it clear that, when the state of emergency is declared, the democracy will not be suspended. So, we wait to see what happens this evening: at 8.00 PM local time the president will speak. We’ll see what he has to say. I think the next update will only be tomorrow morning. We will let the panic die down a bit before trying to give you some sensible information. Stay ‘tuned’.
Update March 17, 4 PM: First confirmed case of Corona infection.
The first confirmed case of Corona-infection is there. It was to be expected, anyone who believed Madeira could close out the rest of the world is really naive. This is a virus and like any flu, we have to become immune to it. This only happens after an infection. Whether we like it or not, it is going to happen. Most of us will hardly notice being infected, if at all. Hopefully, it happens slowly, so that the inevitable severer cases, and there will be some, won’t come all at once, as to not flood the health services. Some are blaming tourists, which also was to be expected, as people in panic always tend to try and find a scapegoat. At the risk of my compatriots being blamed: it was a Dutch lady, who arrived on the island last Thursday, totally legally, no quarantine or testing was in place at the time. Anyone travelling on that flight, HV6629 from Amsterdam on March 12, may want to call the Corona health line 800 24 24 20, just to stay on the safe side, especially if your seat was anywhere near seat 27B.
Madeiras Secretary of tourism Mr Eduardo Jesus has finally spoken a wise word: stop finding someone to blame, and prepare to receive many thousands of tourists when this has passed. Madeira will need them.
Update march 16, 2020, 4.30 PM
Today, we took our niece Suzanne to the airport, she flew back to Amsterdam. The plane arrived almost empty, 15 passengers, probably Madeirans. The airport offered a sad sight, quiet and deserted, except for the departure hall which was busy. Transavia departed choc-a-bloc to the Netherlands. Most of the flights currently come to just pick up passengers who had booked a return flight. In the course of this week and next week, a lot of flights will be cancelled because there is no demand for transport.
On Madeira itself, it is also quiet. But the three shops we visited today to do some shopping were normally operational, no evidence of any measures and everything in stock as usual. It seems that most of the stockpile-madness is over already. Some bars and restaurants are open, and they are allowed to, but the opening hours have changed, all bars have to close at 21.00, I don’t know about restaurants, so if you want to eat out, just ask. This morning it said in the news that a group of 17 French tourists had violated the quarantine. They were arrested by the police. (Serves them right!)
Madeira in lockdown? March 15, 2020
Not really, though the precaution measures that have been taken are severe. Instead of speculating, I shall try and give you the status quo, which, obviously, changes on an almost hourly basis. As always, the problem is to tell rumours from facts, even the local newspapers can’t be trusted to really know what the situation is. It is a tedious job to check all the news and all its sources for credibility. Also, people start asking me for advice. I am not at all equipped to give it. I stick to the facts, and though I understand people are anxious te get counsel, I can only advise you to use your common sense and the information I try to provide for your decisions.
Are you booked on a flight to Madeira
If you have a booking to come to Madeira within the next two weeks, then this is for you. The air travel is still possible, as we speak I can see (using FlightRadar24) that several planes are en route either to Funchal from several countries or from Funchal back to their country of origin. But yesterday – and this is very important – the Regional Government has decreed that starting at this passed midnight, everyone arriving in Madeira or Porto Santo from outside the archipelago, has to go into compulsory quarantine or social isolation for 14 days upon arrival. For those who booked a hotel, they will be confined to their room. The measure, which is in place until March 31st, clearly has been improvised. It has not been specified what the difference is between quarantine and social isolation, nor where people are supposed to be in quarantine if they haven’t booked a hotel room but rented a house or an apartment. Be that as may, it seems that travelling to Madeira for a relaxing holiday would result in a bit too much relaxation as you are supposed to stay in your room or get a substantial fine. So, for new arrivals, it really looks like Madeira in lockdown is a reality.
If you have booked a flight and you can’t get here, it is best to wait for the airline to cancel your flight. If they do, they will pay you back the cost of the flight, and if you have an adequate travel insurance, you may be able to claim additional costs like accommodation.
Many will want to know what happens after March 31. So would we. Like you, we have no idea, and we gladly leave speculation to others and stick to the facts we have.
Background of the new quarantine rule
The background is simple. Two days ago, the Regional Government has requested permission with the Central government in Lisbon to suspend all flights originating in countries with “positive cases and referred by the WHO with active community transmission”, as they put it. The Regional Government is not allowed to take this decision on its own. When they found that the request remained unanswered up to this very moment, they decided to put the quarantine rule into place, because this is something they actually can do on their own account. Today we learned that the Regional Government of the Açores has done the same. We do not know what will change, if anything, should the request to refuse planes from those countries be granted.
So, anyone with imminent flights booked should really reconsider coming to Madeira, as your holiday would be spent inside your accommodation.
A Regional Government press conference has been announced for late afternoon, so come back to this page regularly to get the latest information.
Are you already on the island?
Then this is for you.
Nightlife, amusement and eating out
You may have found out already that nightlife has come to a halt, as all night clubs have closed and bars and restaurants have to close early at 9.00 PM (yesterday evening it still was at 11.00 PM). Eating out continues to be possible, but there are requirements creating more space between tables, really reducing the seating with up to 50%. With the influx of new tourists coming to a halt, this won’t be a problem and the total capacity will be more than adequate for those on the island. Amusement installations, like bathing complexes along the coast, the toboggan operation have suspended their operations, and the cable car from downtown Funchal up to Monte and the botanical gardens is said to have reduced their operations closing at 3.00 PM. However, I have not been able to get confirmation of this last information, so if you decide to go up to Monte and down by cable car, check at the cable car terminal in town.
Shops and markets
Supermarkets and markets continue to be open. Rumours had it that supermarkets now have to close at 7 PM now instead of the normal 10 PM, but checking the official website of the most important chain Pingo Doce learns that the opening hours remain unchanged. I will try and check this at our next visit to a Pingo Doce supermarket, but this may only be tomorrow. More importantly, access to the shops is limited to a specific number of people at a time, as far as we can see in proportion with the size of the supermarket. We haven’t seen any measures concerning the small local food shops (minimercados). This morning we went to the Prazeres fruit and vegetable market and found a queue waiting to be admitted. In the small Prazeres market, they allowed a maximum of seven persons at a time. As soon as someone left, the next was let in. It all looked very orderly and disciplined, and everyone was able to do his or her shopping and queuing was limited to some 15 minutes.
No cultural life
All museums have closed till March 31st, and all cultural activities have been suspended as well. This means no theatre, concerts, movies, folkloric shows etcetera. In general, everywhere where a lot of people can congregate is closed up to March 31st.
What is possible?
There is a whole lot we don’t know. Madeira lockdown or not, the island itself is there for anyone wishing to explore it. Unfortunately, the official Madeira Website run by the (very inadequate) Tourist board of Madeira, as expected, offers no information other than the new quarantine rule. We suspect the numerous bus tours over the island cannot take place for a while, we don’t know if the companies organising bike tours and canyoning excursions are still in operation. But really, the very best item Madeira has to offer will always be available: its overwhelming nature. Since we spend the whole winter here and arrived on the Island at the end of October, we can move freely. We try to do a walk with our friends here every Saturday. Yesterday, we walked a part of the Levada do Castelejo, in the Porto da Cruz area. It was a fantastic walk, stunning views and incredible nature. If you are here now, make the most of it and enjoy Madeira’s most precious asset: nature. Breathe Madeira’s clean air, enjoy and be content with that, for now. And it will pass.
For now, the flight that should take you home if you are here on holiday should fly like scheduled. Our niece Suzanne, who spend a week with us, is due to return to the Netherlands tomorrow. She has been able to check-in electronically, and she has not received any news about the flight being cancelled. A look at the arrivals board shows that only a small flight from Las Palmas in the Canary Islands to Madeira was cancelled, and the usual red-eye flight from Lisbon, that is cancelled very often. However, this time around these flights have been cancelled because TAP does not want to expose their crews to the Madeira quarantine rule because that would leave them stuck on the island for two weeks. The return flight of that same plane is always early morning, so the crew would normally spend the night (only one night) on the island, which is now made impossible by the quarantine rule
Our grandparents – parents for some – were called to war, we are requested to stay put and be cautious. We can do this.