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Cash-strapped Lisbon shops fear for future ahead of new COVID-19 lockdown

Cafe owner Francisco Pereira opened his doors one last time on Thursday, January 14, before Portugal's second lockdown comes into force to halt a record surge in coronavirus infections. Like many others, he fears his family business might not survive.

"These measures will be even worse because we already spent [the money] we had and now there is little or nothing left," the 59-year-old said as he stood behind the counter in the heart of Lisbon, usually busy with tourists but now nearly deserted.

"If things continue like this, I don't know if I can stay open," he said.

The government on Wednesday, January 13, ordered all non-essential businesses across Portugal to shut and urged people to stay at home from Friday, January 15, and said the lockdown was likely to last a month. Similar measures were in place for 6 weeks in March and April 2020.

Not far from Pereira's tiny cafe, hair stylist Cleonice Caldeira will also have to close her salon, again.

"The first time many [businesses] were not able to reopen and now I don't know what will happen," she said. "Everyone is very apprehensive. It's very difficult."

Cited by the Expresso newspaper, the association representing about 600 shops in Lisbon's downtown area said 111 shops had closed permanently since March.

The country of 10 million people has reported a total of 8,236 deaths and 507,108 cases, with a surge in infections after Christmas placing severe pressure on the healthcare system.

"There is only one thing to do: confinement," said 68-year-old Lisbon resident Carlos Proença. "If people are sick, businesses will also go down." – Rappler.com