AAt the weekend, the Portuguese Minister of Health, Marta Temido Fatima, gave some hope to pilgrims. On May 13, the Portuguese sanctuary commemorates the first apparition of Mary. Because of the corona pandemic, it has so far been held without believers. But she still sees a “possibility” for celebrations if the organizers comply with the relevant hygiene regulations, the minister now told the TV station RPT.
The Portuguese were not allowed to leave their district until the weekend, but from this Monday Portugal will loosen the first strict restrictions with which the country had fought the spread of the corona virus more successfully than other countries. On Sunday, the previous state of emergency was downgraded to a “public emergency”. However, the population is still called upon to comply with their “civic duty” and to limit mobility and social contacts to a minimum.
The freedom for the ten million Portuguese is now increasing in three phases until the beginning of June. Shops with an area of up to 200 square meters are allowed to reopen. This also includes book, hairdressing and shoe stores as well as car dealerships. Meetings of up to ten people are allowed again, as is outdoor sports. “But this does not mean that the pandemic is over, that there are no longer any risks and that we will return to the normality that existed before the crisis,” warned Socialist Prime Minister António Costa. Portugal does not want to jeopardize the successes that it has achieved by responding quickly and efficiently to the virus, which has tied the government and opposition from the start.
What you are proud of in Lisbon
A comparison with Spain shows what Lisbon is proud of. In the Alentejo region of Portugal, which has a population of just under 760,000, only an 87-year-old man has died as a result of the Corona virus. In the neighboring Spanish Extremadura, almost 500 Corona deaths were registered among a good one million inhabitants. According to the Johns Hopkins University, Portugal records 9.64 deaths per 100,000 population, Spain almost 52. In Portugal, the number of infections (25190) has been found to be as high as that in Corona deaths in Spain. In Portugal there were 1023 deaths until Sunday.
The starting conditions were not easy. The proportion of Portuguese over 80 years old is similar to that in Italy; the health care system was overwhelmed before Corona and is still suffering from the consequences of the cuts made during the financial crisis a decade ago. Only 4.2 intensive care beds are available per 100,000 citizens. The Portuguese government therefore lost no time in March: the schools were closed when only 245 infections were detected; the state of emergency was declared in 448 cases; in Italy this only happened at 9000. At the same time, the Portuguese were disciplined and reasonable.
From next week on, life is slowly returning to the beaches. Surfers are allowed into the water again. Bathers still have to be prepared for access restrictions to the beaches. It will still take a while before foreign tourists return. Portugal would like to regain their confidence with the low infection rates – the economy depends on them: More than 27 million foreigners visited the country last year.