Vatican media handout

Marcelo charms Pope into new Portugal visit, admitting he supports deconfinement plan after all

President Marcelo – portrayed yesterday as extremely disapproving of the government’s deconfinement plan – has been busy in the Vatican today, charming the Pope into a new visit in 2023, and admitting that he supports PS Socialists’ ideas after all.

Denying implications that there was any kind of rift between himself and prime minister António Costa, Marcelo said that now he knows the details of the roadmap to reopening Portugal he considers the plan “reasonable and prudent”. It plots a slow progress to May “which is good in that it isn’t too far away, it’s flexible in the indicators that it has chosen and in the way they are connected and it assures Easter is ‘closed’, which is important”.

Indeed, it’s a “much more careful plan” than the one he had been led to believe was coming.

Thus, the top-tier of the political landscape is calm. 

Lower tiers however have done their habitual hand-wringing: right-wing Chega complaining the plan is ‘confused’ and ‘too slow’; centre-right CDS seems to think  the opposite: the plan “privileges speed over reasonableness”; PCP Communists believe “all schools and educational establishments should reopen on Monday”; Bloco de Esquerda is very dubious about whether ‘mass testing strategy’ will ever becoming a reality; PEV suggests the government is putting ‘too much responsibility on the shoulders of everyday citizens’, and PAN is concerned over the lack of reinforcement of public transports (so that people can travel duly-distanced from each other).

This is just the beginning. We’re told that the government means to move forwards with new legislation that will allow it to act ‘much more quickly’ in terms of restrictions as the deconfinement plan picks up steam (click here).

As for businesses, restaurants, cafés and coffee shops are “very apprehensive” bearing in mind the plan doesn’t see them reopening inside their premises before April 19 (and that is on the basis that the previous steps ‘work’ without numbers rising too quickly), and doesn’t allow for an unrestricted timetable until even later (May 3).

Gyms too say the plan is a “disillusion”. José Carlos Reis, president of AGAP, “Portugal Activo”, said “we believe we are an essential activity which promotes health, and we don’t understand why we are not in the first phase of reopening”. 

Gyms are scheduled to welcome clients back after Easter, but ‘classes’ (which so many people enjoy) are prohibited until May 3. This, in José Carlos Reis’ opinion, “transmits a lack of confidence to clients and is worrying as it creates the idea that (gyms) are not a safe environment, which is not the case”.

With so much more likely to be said and complained about in the coming days, at least the president will be returning from his lightening visit with the Pope and later the King of Spain with the promise that Pope Francisco will be returning to Portugal in 2023, to visit Lisbon and Fátima on World Youth Day.

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