Marta Temido - Lusa

Masks in schools: New phase “may see them no longer required”

Pressure building over the perceived nonsense of continuing to demand mask-wearing in Portuguese schools has seen health minister Marta Temido admit the measure may well be dropped as part of a “new phase” in coping with the calming virus.

“New orientation” will be announced by the DGS health authority “in a few days time”, say reports, which cite Ms Temido as saying there is the “possibility” they will include the dropping of requirements to wear masks in schools.

Reading between the lines, ‘the possibility’ sounds very much like a probability.

Ms Temido told journalists during a visit to the Hospital Curry Cabral in Lisbon today: “It is worth underlining that we are still in a situation of decline of the pandemic; of a reduction in the number of cases; of a reduction of the risk of transmission, but there are still some factors that lead us to being alert…”

These factors are believed to be what authorities call the ‘high death count’ – meaning still almost three times over the target number of 20 deaths with Covid-19 per million inhabitants over a rolling 14-day average (today’s death count was 28, yesterday’s the same, the day before that there were 35 deaths – so numbers do appear to be reducing).

Rules on isolation are another DGS requirement that may well change in the new phase. Said the minister, the objective is to progress to a phase where the decision to isolate will end up being exactly the same as with any other illness.

Meantime, vaccine centres are being ‘deactivated’, with the idea being to move to seasonal vaccination.

Said Ms Temido: “We are still waiting for data from EMA (European Medicines Authority) on new vaccines, the best calendar, so what we are doing at this moment is adapting response to current reduced necessities, maintaining readiness for other moments”.

Elsewhere, countries like the UK have already made the decision to drop all restrictions, and treat the virus in the same way as seasonal flu is treated.  

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com