Health minister Marta Temido, image: Manuel de Almeida/ Lusa

Goodbye to mask-wearing indoors – and Covid Digital Passes

Schools finally get release they have been clamouring for

Mask-wearing in indoor settings is about to become a nightmare of the past.

Health minister Marta Temido affirmed today that “the conditions for the use of the mask stops being obligatory” as soon as the decision by the Council of Ministers has been published in government gazette Diário da República (see update below).

The minister admitted that the country is not yet at the “ideal level” with regard to SARS-CoV-2, but conditions are such that insisting on the wearing of masks indoors is no longer necessary.

There will, however, be exceptions: mask wearing needs to continue in spaces with vulnerable people, meaning in hospitals and old people’s homes, and in densely-packed environments which are difficult to keep ventilated, meaning public transports.

That said, the country’s ‘State of Alert’ persists: the Council of Ministers voted to extend the situation until May 5.

Observador suggests the council’s rulings will appear in Diário da República as soon as tomorrow. “It should be tomorrow but because it is a decree it will have to go for promulgation by the President of the Republic”, says the online.

Another aspect of today’s decision-making centred on Covid Digital Passes. They are no longer necessary, not even for hospital visits.

As for Covid tests, these too lose all the rules that had been attached to them. They will now only be required “in cases determined by the DGS” (State health authority).

Ms Temido stressed that the government is still “evaluating” the timing for a 4th booster shot of Covid vaccine, but this should start being rolled out in vulnerable groups “before next autumn/ winter”.

The final message was that “the pandemic is still not over”: “Seasonally we may have to remodel measures”, said the minister, although the government will “maintain the principle of proportionality” – meaning here, it will remain ‘guided by indicators which must be read according to the circumstances”.

Deaths with/ from Covid-19 still running above ‘ideal target’

One of the targets set by authorities for the moment all restrictions could fall has been proving almost impossible to reach. Back in February, lines were fixed: deaths needed to fall to an average of 20 per million over 14-days, and numbers in ICUs had to fall to below 170.

The latter has long been achieved, explained Marta Temido today (the country has only 46 people in ICUs with Covid-19 at the moment), but deaths are still running at above 20 over 14-days. The current number is 27.9 deaths, she said – although “mortality from all causes is within values expected during this time of year”.

It is this last point, the fact that so many people have been vaccinated, and the existence of new medications that have helped change what Ms Temido called “the circumstances of the pandemic”. 

Another deciding factor has been the fact that we are entering a period “less conducive to the virus”, she added.

UPDATE 6.30pm: President Marcelo has promulgated the Council of Ministers decree. The new rules will appear in Diário da Republica tomorrow meaning from Saturday morning (April 24) masks come off in indoor spaces! Children will be out of school until Tuesday because of the April 25 Bank Holiday, therefore the first day without masks in schools will be April 26.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com