Portimão mayor Isilda Gomes returned essentially empty-handed yesterday from her trip to Lisbon to plead the borough’s case for reopening to prime minister António Costa.
Today, the town’s business people staged a demonstration outside the Town Hall, and by all accounts the mayor was not there to meet them.
Said a comment over the Portimão Sempre Facebook page: “The mayor of Portimão was very happy to be on television last night, but lamentably when shopkeepers and businesspeople took to the streets, she didn’t show her face. Being a mayor is more than going on television. It is being on the ground with your townsfolk, madam mayor”.
To be fair, Ms Gomes does understand the anger and despair of local people who have now seen three days in which not one case of Covid-19 has been found in mass-testing exercises.
She told SIC late night news that “ “People don’t want promises of government support. They want to work”.
Portimão was ‘sent back’ to the first stage of deconfinement over two weeks ago, and since that point all non-essential business has had to be done from the doorstep of establishments. No one is allowed over the thresholds. As Ms Gomes admitted, it has decimated business turnover.
Cafés and restaurants which enjoyed a brief two-week period serving clients on terraces, were forced to shut up shop and stop working for what was a third time since the start of the pandemic. This is now persisting into the third tense week.
Messages held by protesters today included a number that said “another week with no food on the table”.
Portimão is the only municipality ‘left behind’ in the first stage of deconfinement. Almost all boroughs in the country are back to running businesses, even at weekends.
Some however are still restricted, and have also been complaining.
None feel the government’s decisions are justified – particularly considering the minimal number of cases nationally, and the fact that Covid wards up and down the country are under no pressure.
Indeed, the number of patients in hospital with complications from Covid-19 “hasn’t been this low since last summer”, say reports.
It wasn’t long ago that virologist Pedro Simas queried the policy of reconfining municipalities on the basis of new cases, saying 90% of the mortality risks from Covid have already been eliminated in Portugal. New cases now are simply contributing to herd immunity, the piont where the virus becomes endemic (click here).
What is fairly certain is that next Thursday’s ‘evaluation’ of the national Covid situation will see Portimão at last ‘set free’.
Ms Gomes told SIC that the prime minister has assured her that the minute Portimão hits a rolling average of cases below the stipulated red line of 120 per 100,000, it will be able to ‘catch up’ with the rest of the country and go straight from stage one to stage four of deconfinement.
But she said “at this point” after so many weeks of enforced idleness, every day of lost business counts.
Some businesses may never reopen, one of the protestors predicted on air with TVI today.
All those present seemed to affirm that government support – however much it is dressed up by ministers for the media – is “garbage”.