Covid-19: Government demands contingency plans for epidemic as country’s first case confirmed

With the risk of a Covid-19 ‘epidemic’ in Portugal at the door – and at least one national now confirmed positive for the virus – the government has published a dispatch this morning obliging all services of public administration to elaborate contingency plans.

The idea is to be able to continue offering services even if workers have to work via telephone, or from home.

The dispatch is designed to help both consumers and staff. In the case, for instance, of staff being quarantined, the measures will allow for them to continue working and so not lose any pay.

Said Alexandra Leitão, minister for modernisation and public administration: “These plans serve to prepare us, so that no one is caught by surprise. They do not constitute a note of panic, or alarmism. In other words, we are simply preparing so that there is no crisis, or panic”.

Talking to Expresso, director general of health Graça Freitas admitted that authorities’ greatest concerns are over ‘fake news’ and ‘social media’.

“The greatest fear I have is of human behaviour”, she told the paper. “And viral information that can be counter-productive”.

For example, again over the weekend, PSD Algarve was disseminating the worrying story that ‘the Algarve has no contingency plans’.

This may have alarmed people without actually giving any helpful information. National contingency plans have been widely broadcast (click here) – albeit not citing any of the Algarve State hospitals as places for reserved Covid-19 beds.

With 12 suspect cases still undergoing tests this morning, SIC television news reported the first confirmed cases: a 60-year-old doctor who recently returned from holiday in Italy, and another man, aged 33, who has been in Madrid, Spain for professional reasons.

Authorities have since countered the news with the fact that the national returning from Spain has still to have his test results ‘validated’. In other words, his testing positive has not yet been fully confirmed.

Both men are interned in separate hospitals in Porto.

In the meantime, the contacts the men have had over the last few days are being sought out and tested.

Said Graça Freitas this morning: “We are still in what we term the ‘containment level’. Today’s results have not increased our level of response”.

Nonetheless, anyone returning from areas known for outbreaks of Covid-19 – even if they are showing no symptoms, and feeling perfectly well – should get in touch with Linha Saúde 24 (808 24 24 24) to give their information and receive advice.

Upcoming later this week will be a meeting of the Eurogroup (via teleconference) to ‘coordinate the national responses’ of Member States to the epidemic.

The meeting will involve the 19 countries that make up the group as well as others which have not (yet) adopted the euro.

The European Commission has asked all its member states today to evaluate the economic impacts of Covid-19 with a view to “coordinate an analysis of the effects on industry and European businesses”.

With world stock markets all in freefall, the situation is that many sectors of the global economy have already been affected by this new rapidly spreading virus.

Said Thierry Breton, Europe’s commissioner for industry, 250,000 Chinese tourists have not travelled to the EU between January and February (as they otherwise would have done) and this has already reduced ‘sleepovers’ in hotels, guest houses etc, by two million, “also affecting European airlines”.

To this kind of ‘slump’ one has to add the drop in supplies of products like auto-parts, electronic appliances, wood, even toys.

“And this is just the beginning”, he said. It is much too soon to measure the exact impact of Covid-19, on Europe or indeed the world.

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