important update, May 2nd, 2021
From May 2nd, new, relaxed covid-19 measures will apply. Infection rates have dropped significantly over the past month, but now seem to be stuck at around 20 per day. Of course, there are also people who recover every day. The total number of active covid cases in Madeira currently varies between 250 and 260; 13 people are in hospital and none is in intensive care.
covid-19 test on entry
The compulsory test upon entry into the region (i.e. for Madeira and for Porto Santo) remains in force. For residents, emigrants and students the second test on the fifth day after arrival still applies, but the obligatory quarantine between the two tests has been abolished. This makes life a lot more pleasant for anyone coming ‘home’.
If you have already been tested at home (within 72 hours before departure), you do not need to be tested in Madeira and you can use the green corridor. This also applies if you have recovered from covid within the last 90 days. Or if you are fully vaccinated. You will need to upload proof of either to the madeirasafe website.
The basic rules for protection against the virus still apply: keep a distance of 2 metres, wear masks where necessary, disinfect hands regularly. Every business has disinfectant at the entrance, whether it is a shop, a restaurant or an office.
The curfew has been changed. We have to stay home from 11 PM till 5 AM, with the usual exceptions (work, catching or arriving a plane, going to the doctor or hospital, going to the pharmacy for emergencies and so on).
bars and restaurants
Bars and restaurants may stay open until 10 PM. They may use 50% of their capacity. Maximum 5 people at one table, unless it is a larger family living in the same household. The same applies to weddings and parties, and certainly to funerals also. Standing at the bar to drink is still not allowed, and as soon as you stand up from your table: mask on.
Shops – in fact, all businesses – must close at 10 pm. For shops, there is a maximum of 50% of the number of normally permitted customers and is therefore area-related.
The swimming pools are opening soon for the season. The changing rooms and showers will remain closed. The maximum number of people is also related to the surface area: a maximum of 1 person for every 4 m2 . This also applies to children’s playgrounds.
Sports competitions for teams playing in the national and international leagues are allowed again, and training for other sports teams is allowed again as well. The gyms are open again, with a maximum of 50% of their capacity. Group lessons are allowed again, with a maximum of 5 people per group.
Performances, cultural events and conferences are allowed again, with a maximum capacity of 50% of the space.
Casinos, bingos and similar establishments are allowed to open again, like other businesses they have to close at 10 PM.
tourist buses, minibuses, taxis and tourist boats
Tourist transport can be restored to full capacity, provided all passengers can prove that they have either been vaccinated or have recovered from covid-19 in the last 90 days.
Less interesting for tourists, but certainly for residents: the ‘loja de cidadão’ is open again, as are all the other government offices that have a public counter. The nursing homes have not changed the somewhat meagre visiting regime of 2 persons per week and always for a maximum of 1 hour.
Everything below concerns older covid-19 measures, of which some are still applied. Read the complete article to avoid unpleasant surprises.
extra temporary rules
Update February 20, 2021. The curfew has been extended to Easter on the 4th of April, 2021, and all older covid-19 measures remain in place. Not the nicest of things, but let’s be honest. Compared to many countries that are suffering a complete lockdown, there still is room for a lot of things here in lovely Madeira. As I wrote before in the article here, even during lockdown life here wasn’t all too bad. Of course, it is just as well that we did not know last Easter that we would still be in a state of emergency a year later. Still, as opposed to many countries, we can still have a drink at our favourite bar, we can go to any shop we want, as long as we respect the basic covid rules. The curfew seems to have some effect: the last weeks shows a decrease in the number of new cases, and on most days that number was well below the number of recovered cases. Vaccination only started very slowly so the effects on new infections are not yet noticeable. If you are living on the island full-time, or if you are staying indefinitely to escape the conditions at home, you may want to read my article about the vaccination, if you can get it and how to get it.
In spite of the covid-19 measures in place, the number of covid cases in Madeira has risen by more than 1100 in December and January. That is far too many. Therefore, the curfew that was announced earlier has now been extended. From 12 January onwards, the curfew will also apply on weekdays. These are the rules: on Mondays to Fridays, the curfew is from 7 PM to 5 AM. Saturday and Sunday, the curfew starts at 6 pm. Bars, restaurants and all shops, including large shopping malls, except pharmacies and petrol stations, close at 5 pm. At the petrol stations, you can only do what the name suggests: fuel up. No sale of sweets, coffee or soft drinks. Restaurant kitchens are allowed to stay open until 10 PM, and only restaurant staff may be on the road delivering meals during curfew hours. So either order a take-out in time, or get your frozen pizza (yuck) in advance; or do as I do and enjoy (sorry for the schadenfreude) a delicious meal from your own kitchen (well, Noud’s kitchen then).
Read the rest of this article well, make yourself familiar with the covid-19 measures Madeira has put into place, to avoid unpleasant surprises.
earlier covid-19 measures
The other covid-19 measures mentioned in this article were put in place for August and September initially, they have not been cancelled and they remain in place. Having said that, the most important thing you should do is to use your common sense. If you are walking in an empty street without a mask no-one will take offence. But if you are in a busy street, do wear your mask. The rules for mask inside public spaces remain unaltered. Children of 6 and older als now also obliged to wear a mask.
renewed state of emergency
As mainland Portugal struggles with the increasing number of transmissions of covid-19, the government decided to bring back the State of Emergency. It is a ‘light’ state of emergency that did not entail many strict measures. The main reason to go back to the State of Emergency is to give a legal ground to introduce local or regional measures where and when needed, without having to adopt new laws first. The regional government has now set up a new set of rules for the first weeks of December, that will doubtlessly be extended till mid-January. I have explained this extra set of rules in a separate article, as there are many things that remain unclear and the legal merit of some of them is questionable, to say the least. When the dust has settled and things become clear, I will work the extra rules into this article as well. For now, you’d best read the mentioned article about the Christmas covid rules.
The state of emergency is now expected to remain in place up to the bitter end of the pandemic. It applies to the entire Portuguese territory, including the autonomous regions. It is interesting to see that this state of emergency has been created to give regional and local authorities a legal possibility to put their own rules into place. For instance, it is possible that any council or regional government can limit the opening hours of bars and restaurants, choosing any closing hour between 8 PM and midnight they see fit. Also, the state of emergency has given a legal base for the obligation to wear masks, which, up to now, could not legally be enforced.
extra rules as of November 2020
From November 6th, there are new extra rules in place, which have been worked into this article. But in general, the maximum group size in public areas (anywhere outside, in fact) is limited to 10 persons. In restaurants and bars, the maximum number of people seated at the same table is limited to 5, unless they are all members of the same household. In bars and restaurants within a distance of 300 metres from schools, the number is even limited to 4. The rules for wearing face masks remain in place, with the difference that also children from 6 years need to wear them. If you like, you can jump to the mask rules here.
initially for August and September, now prolonged indefinitely
For the months of August and September, new covid-19 measures for Madeira have been announced by the Regional Government. It all has to do with wearing face masks. All started yesterday (somewhere in July) in the leading newspaper Diario de Notícias da Madeira. They announced that in August and September the use of a face mask in all public spaces of the island will be mandatory. The same rules would apply to the sister island of Porto Santo. They also introduced a new rule for people travelling to Madeira: everyone is offered a free covid-19 test upon arrival at the airport. That isn’t new. What is, is that you can refuse it, but if you do, you are put into quarantine for two weeks, in a hotel facility at your own expense. Makes sense to me. But back to the compulsory face masks.
Obviously, immediately after this news became public, Facebook exploded. Many people and notably foreign immigrants (yes, I know, they want to call themselves ex-pats but they are ordinary immigrants) started screaming murder about the loss of income from tourism this would bring. I even read somewhere that this would kill the island and whatnot. If you ask yourselves why I did not write a post about this, here is the reason. As always, it takes a little more time to gather all relevant information, and I want to avoid scaremongering at all cost. Also, fake news and sensationalism have no place on any website of mine.
shocked by the new covid-19 measures
So what does the new mandatory face mask rule entail in reality? It is quite simple and it makes sense. Very much so even. We have witnessed the events during the Rali da Calheta. It is a local car rally in the Council of Calheta. During the event, the public flocked together as if there is no covid-19 in the world. This shocked the health authorities, who immediately reminded the public to use masks and keep a distance of 2 metres. Obviously, it also gave them food for thought. This resulted in new covid-19 measures for the months of August and September – now prolonged indefinitely.
why August and September?
August and September will see more tourists come to the island. Also, in August, we will see the famous Rali da Madeira, a classic car rally and the Madeira Wine Festival. And in September the island will celebrate the Festival da Flor, the flower festival. It was planned for May but had to be postponed for obvious reasons. Already, the Cortejo, the parade of the Flower Festival, has been cancelled completely, as it would bring too many people together at one time. All of these festivities are extremely important for the island and the island economy. Therefore, everyone will understand we don’t want to see them cancelled. In practice, until early November, air traffic picked up considerably, increasing the number of imported positive covid cases and even starting some strings of local transmission. That’s why all measures remain in place indefinitely.
If the situation runs out of hand as it did in Calheta, extra covid-19 measures are needed to prevent an outbreak. On October 29, a law was passed in the Autonomous Region of Madeira – which covers Madeira and Porto Santo and any outlying islands like the Desertas and the Selvagens – giving a legal basis for the obligation to wear a mask. Fines can be given and may amount to as much as € 500.
If you have seen the video, you can understand why measures are needed. The crowd attracted by the Flower Festival is too large for comfort in these days of pandemic.
extra measures in place for November and early December
Restaurants and bars have earlier closing hours. Bars close at midnight, reataurants at 11 PM. After those hours, the establishments have to be empty. Nightclubs are completely closed for the time being. Alcohol can not be consumed in public spaces (we assume this means outside bars and restaurants). Maximum group size in the streets is limited to 5 persons, more is permitted if they are all from the same household. Capacity of boats and buses is reduced. If you want a haircut, an appointment is mandatory. We will see how this works out in practice, and update thiw article accordingly.
When first the authorities announced a general compulsory use of face masks I have wondered what such a seemingly draconic measure could entail exactly. Unfortunately, we missed the Press Conference on RTP-Madeira. Anyway, it would not have been easy to understand everything word for word when journalists all want to ask questions at once. Therefore, I decided to not join the general moaning but to sit down and wait for the fog to lift, which it usually does the next day. And so it did. I am very grateful to Miguel Laginha who has a Facebook page in Portuguese and English called This is Madeira Island and a website, which, next to news articles, promotes touristic activities, flights and holiday rentals under the same name. This morning, I found his article explaining the exact meaning of the new measures. And finally, it all came into perspective and proportion.
where do we wear them?
So where do we have to wear a mask?
in all indoor public spaces, also in restaurants and bars. But as soon as you sit down at your own table, you can take your mask off as easing and drinking wearing a mask would be too messy. When you get up to go to the bar or use the toilet: wear your mask again. Nothing too complicated to remember.
in all public outside spaces. So yes, that means the bar’s terrace as well. And the same rules apply that are in place for indoor spaces. So sit down at a table and take your mask off, start moving around and wear it.
A street is also a public place. And yes, the street is where you have to wear your mask as well. But there is also common sense. In summer, the streets in towns and many villages tend to get quite busy. Often, a 2-metres-distance is simply not feasible. That’s when you wear your mask. When you are doing a walk in Madeira’s lush nature it is considered personal physical exercise, and then you are exempt from wearing a mask. Unless, of course, you walk in a large group when a mask is again compulsory. Common sense, again.
err on the safe side
Do not do your running routine on a busy boulevard where crowds are strolling. Even if you are exempt from wearing a mask, you run a much greater risk, as do the strollers with you panting and puffing without a mask. Common sense. I can’t say it often enough. Having said that, a friend told me she was told that she had to put on her mask when waiting – alone – at a bus stop. A policeman stopped and told her ‘she was illegal’ for not wearing her mask. I checked (November 10 we were stopped at a traffic check in the Calheta area) with a policeman. The first thing he said was ‘use your common sense’, even with the renewed state of emergency in place. When I told him the story, he hesitated and said ‘I should probably not say this, but of course it depends on the police officer in question – and maybe on hiss temper that day. I would not tell anyone off for not wearing a mask waiting alone at a bus stop.’ So, in brief, common sense, yes, but be aware of the official rules in place, the ones that say you have to wear a mask in the streets, and if you err, better err on the safe side. Remember these rules have not been in place to hurt or annoy us – like many seem to think – but to keep us safe.
on the beach
On the beach? No, the beach is exempt, but you have to maintain your distance of at least 2 metres. The beach crews have already prepared the beaches for this. And yes, again, use your common sense. When you start walking on a crowded beach to get some drinks, wear your mask to protect yourself and others. You have to wear it anyway when you order at the bar. At the risk of repeating myself: use your f*cking common sense.
Like the photo shows, the beaches are perfectly prepared for visitors, respecting the need of social distancing. Still, like bars and restaurants and their outside spaces, there is no sense of forbidding emptyness. Everyting looks inviting and pleasant like it always does. Bravo for the creativity of many managers and owners.
turn it around
We can also turn the whole thing around. In principle, you wear your mask everywhere, but not when you are out in the nature, on the beach, jogging/running/sporting or in your car when it’s just you and your own people. This is putting it very roughly, so do read the rules about bars and restaurants and their terraces. It is not complicated and really not a problem. Unless you decide it is a problem. In that case, do us all a favour and stay at home. After all the noise of the last couple of days, the island government has issued some pictograms where you can understand the rules in just one look. Of course, they forgot the international versions, so I added a caption to make everything crystal clear.
much ado about nothing much
Conclusion: yesterday’s ‘expats-group-moan’ was what I already suspected: much ado about not very much. Use your common sense (I know I already said that), wear a mask in crowded spaces, indoors and outdoors, and respect the social distance of two metres minimum. We are enjoying a fantastic summer here on this island paradise, and we found the anti-covid measures very effective and not too intruding in our life. We would very much like to keep the island safe and healthy and large crowds do not combine with that without sensible covid-19 measures. So be a good lad (or girl) and wear your mask. Use your common sense and respect the health of others, even if you don’t care about your own.
We have witnessed this Island Government take quick and drastic measures if they feel the need arises. It’s all in your – and our – hands. Ignore the rules where you shouldn’t, and a new outbreak is there before you know it. Always remember you are doing this for your own protection, and for the protection of others against a very nasty and stubborn virus. It has already disrupted the lives of many. Use your common sense and do not add yours to those lives.
Enjoy your stay in paradise anyway.
Yes, there is a postscript. New information appears by the hour. There already were discussions about these new covid-19 measures being unconstitutional. Now, it came to my knowledge that the Portuguese national government has said that fining people for not wearing a mask has no legal fundament and is therefore illegal. On top of that, the former president of the Autonomous Region of Madeira Alberto João Jardim, who still has a lot of influence on the island, has said that the Regional government runs the risk of criminal prosecution for enforcing the use of masks. It may turn out that your common sense will be the most important and the most powerful of all covid-19 measures.
Still, the measures taken, draconic or not, have had their effect. Life today is a far cry from the early days of the pandemic when it seemed we were living in a world that isn’t ours. Those days are behind us now. The necessary do’s and don’ts that have found their way into our lives under corona have fallen into place. They no longer determine our lives completely or take away the joy we have. We’ll get there.
When first the measures were announced, they were presented as measures presenting compulsory rules. Sneakily, the government did not clearly mention that the rules were only strong advice. But they were, as there was no legal ground to fine people who did not comply. Though virtually everyone did comply, without moaning, a legal basis was needed to enforce the rules. Late October (yes, this is an update) the law that legalises the obligation to wear your mask when necessary. Fines can be as high as €500, just so you know.
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