Miguel Guimarães, the head of the Ordem dos Médicos, speaking to journalists outside Faro Hospital. Photo: BRUNO FILIPE PIRES/OPEN MEDIA GROUP

Head of General Medical Council balks at government’s autotest concession

While the majority of citizens – if not businesses – are reeling from the government’s decision that people must provide proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test in order to go out to dinner at weekends in high risk municipalities, the head of the general medical council is taking issue with the fact that ‘cheap’ autotests purchased at supermarkets will be accepted for the non-vaccinated.

According to Miguel Guimarães, these tests are not “adequate” and should be substituted by the much more expensive antigen tests (valid for 48-hours, but only available through pharmacies).

“Autotests are not viable and could give false feelings of security as has happened in various family and social reunions”, he told journalists. “This is not an adequate measure”.

Nonetheless, Mr Guimarães believes the government’s decision-making generally is “adequate” – even though rules brought in for restaurants apply only to restaurants, and only at weekends.  

Coffee shops and/ or ‘pastelarias’ – which can often be used by people as alternatives to regular restaurants – are exempt from having to ask customers to show the Covid Digital Certificates or indeed any kind of negative test.

Another ‘absent detail’ from Mr Guimarães discourse is the well-established fact that even antigen tests are open to question – hence the reason they carry a lower limit on validity than ‘gold standard PCR tests’ – which are equally known for their failings (click here).

In other words, Mr Guimarães’ criticism is on the basis that other tests on the market are much more reliable than autotests (which suggests something is very wrong. Why are people even making autotests if they are not accurate? Why is the government asking citizens to buy them in order to eat out at a restaurant?)

The other ‘elephant in the room’ is the again established ‘fact’ that even people who have been fully-vaccinated can contract Covid-19 and transmit it.

Totting up all these inconvenient truths might leave people questioning a great deal of current practices being imposed on society.

Faro mayor Rogério Bacalhau has shown he personally is dubious of the logistics that mean anyone wanting to eat out (inside a restaurant) from Friday night to Sunday night will have to do so armed with a Covid Digital Certificate or be prepared to self-test in the company of a restaurant employee and then stand around waiting for the result.

He told SIC television that he can’t actually see how the self-testing policy will work.

He is not alone. A quick glance through social media pages in the Algarve will find endless commentators exclaiming (the wrong way) about the plan, with one well known bar declaring openly: “We will NEVER ask anybody for a Covid test result or proof of vaccine… NEVER! It is none of our business and goes against our clients human rights. We will not be party to society’s descent into fascism and apartheid”.

As we wrote this text the ‘witching hour’ of 3.30pm arrived. From now on, anyone going into a restaurant in areas of high or very high incidence (click here) will have to be well-prepared (unless of course they decide to eat outside, where none of the new rules apply).

People may be in luck: this weekend temperatures are forecast for the low to high 30s. Eating outside will be just fine.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com