PM Costa compares Algarve virus cases with those in UK, quizzing ‘which is safest?’

Portugal’s PM António Costa has taken to Twitter in English to show how few virus cases the Algarve has compared with Great Britain at a time when our ‘oldest ally’ appears to have knee-capped our chances of recovering the so-far abysmal summer season (click here).

As shockwaves continue to reverberate over the British government’s decision to label Portugal ‘unsafe’ for quarantine-free travel, the prime minister presented a very simple bar chart, showing cases per 100,000 inhabitants in UK compared to those in the country’s premier tourist destination, the Algarve.

UK – 418, Algarve – 142. Not too difficult to see which place is doing better. Certainly the PM thinks the case for Britons coming here for a safe summer holiday makes absolute sense.

“Which is the safest place to stay?” He tweeted. “You are welcome to spend a safe holiday in Algarve!”

His comment follows the government’s ‘snub’ of the list of 59 destinations that don’t require quarantine – issued in a scramble of confusion around 3pm yesterday which initially seemed to suggest the autonomous regions of Madeira and Azores (where the former has had not one death from the virus) were ‘deemed safe’. It then transpired that they aren’t – leading to a further show of hands thrown up in horror and disgust.

Head of diplomacy Augusto Santos Silva went so far as saying the equivalent of ‘I’ll eat my hat’ if the decision isn’t quickly ‘corrected’, while President of the Republic Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa was more statesmanlike, referring to moments in history when “our oldest ally” came through for a Portugal having a low moment.

“When times are tough we need others. When others are doing well – or when they think they are doing well – they sometimes forget the others…” he said.

It was as far as Marcelo would go to show he too is deeply disappointed by the British government’s decision.

But Opposition health spokesman Ricardo Baptista Leita did not pull his punches. A text in the Financial Times yesterday quoted him as calling the decision “shocking” and “not based on any scientific or rational criteria”.

“When Britain was at its darkest Covid hour, with its prime minister in an intensive care bed with a Portuguese nurse at his side, we never at any moment considered blocking our British friends from coming here”, he said, reiterating that Portugal “will not forget being blacklisted by Britain in a decision that has no scientific basis.” 

The FT stresses Britain isn’t the only country to ‘blacklist’ Portugal over travel advice. “The problem” of new cases rising – predominantly in the Lisbon area – “has led several other countries, including Denmark, Austria and the Czech Republic, to restrict entry to visitors from Portugal”, says the paper.

The last couple of weeks have indeed been ‘bleak’, with rising case numbers. The 24-hour period leading up to Friday recorded the highest number of deaths in the last month (11). 

Today has seen deaths reduced down to seven – as well as news from elsewhere in Europe that isolated outbreaks are starting to cause concern in a number of countries on the British ‘safe travel’ list.

But in all the furore, Portuguese people living in UK have been largely forgotten. These are the 400,000-plus people who work hard in all kinds of sectors and cannot wait for the chance to return home for holidays and catch up with family members.

Say reports, many are “absolutely heartbroken”. Their  flights are booked, but their employment situations will not allow for them to take a further two weeks off on their return from UK to sit-out quarantine.

Some are planning to visit anyway, by flying to destinations in Spain and then taking the train into Portugal. 

Says Rádio Renasença, it’s not the most ethical option, but it’s a way round the ‘absurdity’ of this desperately damaging situation.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com