The Portuguese government is considering creating the legal framework necessary to punish those who organise and attend illegal parties and events.
The announcement was made by Prime Minister António Costa on Sunday at a time when the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases linked to the illegal party held in Odiáxere, Lagos is already up to 90.
It also came two days after the Public Prosecutor’s Office announced the launch of an investigation into the party.
“The end of the period of mandatory confinement has given us more freedom, but also more responsibility. After doing everything so well until now, we cannot ruin what we’ve accomplished,” he told reporters before attending an event at the D. Maria II theatre in Lisbon.
“Parties like the one in Lagos, the lack of care which led to the outbreak at the Reguengos de Monsaraz nursery home and gatherings like the ones at Praia de Carcavelos or the Lisbon docks are behaviours that can have bad results,” the PM said.
He added that the party in Lagos “transformed into a tragedy” and that these situations “can and should be avoided”.
As much as everyone wants to return to their pre-outbreak lives, Costa stressed we all have to be aware of one thing: “The virus is still out there and will continue to be until we find a vaccine.”
Costa also called on younger generations to be more responsible, explaining that while they may be less likely to get sick from contracting Covid-19, they are just as likely as anyone else to spread it.
Meanwhile in Lagos, health authorities say the situation is coming closer and closer to being ‘under control’.
Around 250 tests have been carried out per day, with the plan being to “continue testing” as long as there is a need to confirm suspicious cases.
The strategy now is to “identify the people who were at the party and the people they’ve been in contact with.
“We are already detecting a smaller number of positive cases. We expect the number of new cases to drop very soon to one or two,” said the regional health delegate Ana Cristina Guerreiro at a press conference on Friday, adding that new cases are normally linked to family members becoming infected as well.
For now, there are no plans to set up a sanitary cordon around Lagos, she confirmed, as the number of new cases is dropping.
Guerreiro also said she doesn’t believe the party in Odiáxere was held with the goal of building herd immunity among those who attended.
While the situation in Lagos may be improving, the health delegate is aware the arrival of more holidaymakers in the Algarve poses risks.
“We know that these kinds of events, like the party in Lagos, can happen throughout the summer season, but on a smaller scale. When the bathing season begins, the Algarve’s population trebles, meaning we have three times more people at risk of getting sick. So, we are expecting more cases than the ones we have had up until now,” she said.
Another speaker at the press conference was Lagos Mayor Hugo Pereira, who described what happened as “very serious” and called for legal action against the organisers of the party.
“The municipality spent four months following all recommendations. When everything was starting to get back to normal, an irresponsible, imprudent and illegal act could have jeopardised the work of a whole community, which was exemplary,” he said.
While the initial focus was on handling the public health crisis that erupted in the borough, the next step will be to help kickstart the local economy.
Pereira called on everyone to “wear masks more than ever” in order to prove that Lagos is a “very safe, interesting and desirable destination”.
Meanwhile, Paulo Morgado, president of the Algarve health authority (ARS Algarve), tried to debunk the idea that Covid-19 is ‘just another flu’.
“It isn’t. It can be serious, can force people to be hospitalised and can be deadly,” he stressed.
António Pina, president of the Algarve municipalities association (AMAL), chalked the party up to “an episode of the new normal.
“Unfortunately, there is 5% of the population that doesn’t respect the work of the other 95%. Outbreaks will be part of our life and we proved to be up to the task. Soon, we hope to say that this one is under control and that the Algarve is once again a welcoming destination for all,” he said.
Photo: BRUNO FILIPE PIRES/OPEN MEDIA GROUP