Photo: JOÃO RELVAS/LUSA

“Devastating numbers”: “Portugal’s school community is consumed by fear”

With national focus on how much longer schools can remain open in face of galloping rates of Covid infections, president of the association of school directors Filinto Lima has described the “devastating numbers” coming up everyday, stressing “it’s imperative” to close schools as quickly as possible.

Just today “we have another 14,647 people infected” he said. “Fear is taking hold in the educational community”.

Talking on TSF radio this morning, Mr Lima urged the government to “listen to the science” and close schools now.

Presenting what he said will be today’s DGS health bulletin figure for new infections – 14,647 – “an increase of 4,000 on yesterday’s cases” , he stressed that schools are part of society. Keeping them open is prolonging the risks that have already seen Portuguese case numbers, and deaths, rise faster proportionally than in almost every other country in the world.

“This is the moment for science”, he said. “Not for politics, even less for politicising…”

The school timetable can be adjusted to make up for time lost while they are closed, he stressed: the Easter holidays, for example, could be cancelled. But time now is of the essence: schools should not remain open as they are.

The General Medical Council and the nurses official body, Ordem dos Enfermeiros, have been campaigning for the closure of schools as hospitals everywhere are losing control of the battle to cope with the demand for their expertise.

Said Ana Rita Cavaco, president of the nurses’ Ordem yesterday: “schools should have been closed yesterday”.

She told TVI24 that ‘the situation in Portuguese hospitals is worse than Portuguese people imagine”.

In Coimbra’s Hospital dos Covões, for example, there are just two cleaners for eight wards, which means it can take up to four hours to remove the body of a patient who has died, and ‘proceed with the cleaning of the space’, she said.

During those hours, someone needing specialist care won’t be getting it-

For the time being however official word is that any decisions on schools must wait for the next meeting between the government and medications authority Infarmed.

President Marcelo has explained why: “It is very important to have the notion that there is a peaceful understanding of this matter for two reasons: the first, schools have been the place where aggravation (of cases) has least occurred and where the control of the situation in terms of outbreaks has worked. Second, we need to make sure that without classes, young people are not going to constitute sources of contagion equal to or greater than the one that exists today”.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com