World News

Portuguese companies suffer massive blow from coronavirus outbreak

LISBON (Reuters) – Around 80% of Portuguese companies still operating or temporarily shut due to the coronavirus outbreak reported a sharp drop in their revenues, at times exceeding 75%, as authorities tightened lockdowns, a survey showed on Tuesday.

Around 78% of businesses blamed the revenue free-fall on restrictions implemented by Portugal’s Socialist government as part of a state of emergency to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The emergency was initially declared on March 18 but is set to be extended until May 1.

The accommodation and restaurant sector suffered the hardest blows, a survey released by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) and the Bank of Portugal revealed, with businesses in the industry frequently reporting revenue declines of more than 75% during the second week of April.

The data showed 55.1% of the companies in the accommodation and food sector – mostly driven by the tourism industry – shut temporarily, while 7.2% closed doors permanently.

Portugal attracts millions of foreign visitors annually, and the tourism sector, accounting for nearly 15% of gross domestic product, helped it to recover from the 2010-14 debt crisis.

Last week, hotel association AHP said the hotel industry could lose 80%-90% of its revenues, or up to 1.4 billion euros ($1.54 billion) between March and June if the novel coronavirus continues to spread.

But other industries are feeling the impact of the coronavirus too, with transport and commerce sectors also badly hit, INE said.

INE said more than half of the 4,793 surveyed firms said the coronavirus pandemic had a negative effect on the amount of people they can employ.

Nearly half of those surveyed said they have already applied for the so-called “simplified” lay-off measure, which allows companies to temporarily suspend jobs or reduce working hours but does not let them fire or make workers redundant.

Portugal has so far reported 17,448 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 567 deaths.

(Reporting by Maria Gonçalves; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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