Portugal has worked hard in keeping Covid-19 at bay; from the general population through to the front-line workers and politicians, where opposition parties joined forces with the government rather than oppose it.
Many Portuguese companies, including restaurants and shops, closed their doors voluntarily prior to the State of Emergency being implemented on March 18. They could see what was happening in Italy, Spain and elsewhere so took it upon themselves to stay at home.
And although Portugal “shut down” around the same time as other European countries, it had fewer cases and deaths at the time; 642 confirmed cases and 2 deaths – far lower than the figures communicated by its neighbours.
Health care preparation
There were two Covid-19 “campaign” hospitals prepared in Porto and Lisbon, neither of which were needed and towards the end of April the Minister of Health, António Lacerda Sales, confirmed that only “54% of intensive care beds were currently being used”.
At no time, during the six weeks of the State of Emergency being in place, did ICU reach full capacity nationally. The national health system was able to prepare and coped extremely well.
Portugal did not restrict the population with strict measures as Spain and Italy did. People were allowed to exercise, pick up take-aways (restaurants have been allowed to provide take away food when they normally would not have done so) and of course shop in supermarkets and chemists. Distancing, of 2m, has been well adhered to along with the use of face masks.
Civic responsibility has been something to be proud of, with people supporting each other on social media, visiting with their neighbours (all-be-it through windows) and of course shopping for those who have not been able to get out as they were in quarantine or isolation due to age or health reasons. Many challenged themselves with learning new skills, some in the kitchen.
The way forward
According to Statista, Portugal has been leading in the number of tests performed per capita – more than double the UK or USA. The intention is to continue testing as it seems to be the way forward in containing the virus.
Portugal’s health care system remains alert concerning Covid-19, with the population now moving slowly through the next six weeks of Situation of Calamity. However, the Prime Minister António Costa has said that he will “not be ashamed of taking a step back” and return to tighter restrictions should there be a need.
Lifting of restrictions
Currently there are three phases planned in the lifting of restrictions during the Situation of Calamity.
On May 4 hairdressers, dentists and opticians opened their doors as did numerous smaller businesses whose “doors open onto the street”, including algarveholidayletc.com offices.
May 18 will see the opening of larger business premises along with museums and other heritage sites, creches and schools for those taking exams. Restaurants and cafés will also open but will only be allowed to work at 50% capacity.
And on June 1 various public facilities will open including theatres and cinemas although both these will have capacity and seating restrictions.
Portugal is said to have been a “miracle country” by some world leaders. It certainly listened to its advisors, prepared as well as possible and remains alert and ready to react should there be a need.
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