#COVID19-How local and regional authorities respond to the crisis: The case of Sintra

The municipality of Sintra (PT) shared with ESPON their actions and initiatives in order to support citizens and local businesses during the crisis. 


The city set up a multidisciplinary working group in February to monitor and follow-up on the apparition of the first COVID-19 cases and to propose measures that were deemed appropriate. At the beginning of March, the municipality suspended all public activities organised by the Municipal Council of Sintra or in which the city was simply participating. Later in the month all municipal buildings for culture, sport and leisure were closed. Sintra created the ‟Municipal Emergency Council” which includes a representation of all entities in relation to health and civil protection and adopted a number of measures to support the citizens: 

  • reduction by 35% the price of water for domestic use and by 20% for other types of consumption;
  • total exemption for users benefiting from the social tariff from the payment of water;
  • reinforcement of the social emergency fund by €1 million for the purchase of medicines, the payment of rents or the instalments of houses;
  • increase of the funds allocated to the IPSS (private charitable institutions) by €1 million to support the heavier workload caused by the epidemic;
  • grant of €1.5 million to the Amadora Sintra Hospital for the purchase of equipment considered as essential for the hospital's operations during the crisis (a contract has been drawn up to identify the resources to be acquired with this sum, namely ventilators, portable X-ray machines, disinfectant liquid, masks and personal protective suits, among many other things).


Working together with the ACES (Grouping of Health Centres) of Sintra, the municipality opened the first unit in the Agualva Health Centre capable of screening the entire population who uses it (without the need for any prescription) as well as a first assessment of the health status of users. There is also a plan to open an identical Centre in Algueirão Mem Martins. This centre will serve a population of over 60,000 people.

Local businesses

The Sintra Municipal Council has not suspended any of the ongoing investments and continued to comply with all signed contracts even if the contractors have suspended their activities (e.g. crèches, theatres, orchestras, bands, ranches, etc.). Additionally, the Council suspended municipal taxation and property income for a period of 3 months (i.e. until 30/06) all rents paid for social housing and non-profit associations (IPSS, sports and cultural associations). This plan covered about 1.700 families and 70 associations. In addition to these specific measures, Sintra has strengthened its collection of waste and its urban hygiene work, particularly by reinforcing its disinfection and cleaning teams. 

On 16 April 2020 Sintra created a municipal business fund, worth three million euros, to support some entrepreneurs (SMEs) within the scope of COVID-19. This fund is intended for entrepreneurs who work on their own or as managers of commercial companies, catering and similar areas, trade in goods and retail services and provision of services. However, only activities that do not exceed the value of 100 thousand euros per year can be supported and, including individuals with gross family income, at the IRS headquarters, cannot exceed the value of 30 thousand euros in 2018.

The ventures have access to an offer of 1,500 euros, equivalent to two guaranteed minimum monthly remunerations, calculated based on 14 months. In return, entrepreneurs who benefit from this support are obliged to maintain all jobs until no less than December 31, 2020. Interested entrepreneurs can apply for this grand by filling out an application form, which is available on the website of the municipality.

According to Mr Basílio Horta - Mayor of Sintra, Portugal, “There is no support for entrepreneurs, who manage and hold these companies, correct the serious risk of deepening or shaking that the county’s economy is already suffering, due to the eventual non-reopening of most of these hundreds of companies”.

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Article edited by Nikos Lampropoulos, ESPON Project Expert Press and Media Activities