Portugal one of two European countries showing “greatest reductions” in virus numbers – but still UK ‘drags feet’ over air corridor

Portugal is one of two European countries that has shown the greatest reduction in virus numbers in recent weeks – but still the UK government is dragging its feet over the opening of an air corridor.

Picking up the Resident’s story about travel insurance being offered British holidaymakers who want to come to Portugal regardless of Britain’s quarantine demands (click here), the Telegraph reported over the weekend that ministers in Whitehall are “thought to be happy with Portugal’s low infection numbers”.

But a source explained that despite the progress the process for dropping quarantine “is far more gradual” monitored “in weeks rather than days”.

In a subsequent story picked up by other UK papers the Telegraph stressed that the Joint Biosecurity Centre could say it is prepared to remove quarantine for Portugal this week – but this is still unlikely to happen before the end of August.

“That gives the government time to assess that the falling numbers are part of a longer-term trend rather than a blip”, said the source, adding that “from a science perspective it makes sense but unfortunately it is likely to come too late for Portugal which has seen its entire summer season lost”.

Here, however, newspapers are filled with the much more positive news that the ECDC (European Centre for Disease Control) has highlighted Portugal and Sweden as the two countries in Europe with the greatest fall in infection rates.

Following the period July 20 to August 2, the centre says there has been a 30% reduction in infections in Portugal.

Says Expresso: “Portuguese are among the populations that realise the highest number of tests in Europe and even so the number has fallen” this dramatically at a point when other countries are experiencing new peaks of infection rates.

That said, our overall numbers are still a tad ‘too high’ (28.4 infections per 100,000 inhabitants).

But compared with countries like Luxembourg, Spain and Romania (where infections round out at 60 per 100,000 inhabitants), Portugal recovery is exemplary.

Says the paper, while 26 European countries have registered an increase in infections – including a number that continue to have ‘air bridges’ with UK – “only five have shown reductions: Portugal, Sweden, Croatia, Slovenia and Latvia.

On the subject of ‘infection rates’, the ECDC has tried to explain the iniquity with which countries like Portugal have been treated.

Numbers of infections have to be looked at “carefully”, said the centre, explaining that “in some countries, tests have been done on light, asymptomatic infections which have accelerated increases”.

In line with what we have been reporting in recent weeks Portugal is in 8th place of the 31 European countries carrying out tests.

“Curiously Spain appears in the group that least tests”, says Expresso – and still the country shows infection rates of around 60 people per 100,000.

Regarding deaths, Portugal continues to do ‘well’ in that it has registered a 33% fall in numbers in recent weeks, but it is still losing five people per million – which is above the European average.

Deaths in the Algarve, for example, recently rose to 17 (from the 15 that had been unchanged for weeks).

The Alentejo too has shown an increase (to 22).

But as a country within a global pandemic, Portugal is still on comparatively low numbers with the general consensus being that methods of prevention are working well.

That said the ‘crisis office’ of the Doctors Association (Ordem dos Médicos) has this week recommended that the use of masks be extended to all public open spaces – meaning people would have to start wearing them in the street.

This has already started happening in other European countries albeit on a regional basis. The French resort of St Tropez, for instance, recently ordered people to wear face masks when out in public open spaces, and Brussels and Amsterdam have already issued similar orders.

So far in Portugal, the government has not changed its policy of face masks only being mandatory in public closed spaces.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com