Portugal’s State of Emergency “could go on till end of pandemic”, says PM

Portugal’s State of Emergency – due to kick in on Monday – could go on until the end of the pandemic, prime minister António Costa has admitted today.

“I don’t want to say that the concrete measures will last permanently”, he told Antena 1 radio station. “There could be measures that last a weekend and disappear, but I think it is convenient having the juridical cover for them to be used in moments in which they are necessary. This way we avoid last minute crises”, he said.

It was a relatively ‘wide-ranging’ interview in which the prime minister was asked whether he had political confidence in health minister Marta Temido – who has undoubtedly had the toughest job of any health minister in the history of Portugal’s democracy – to which he replied in the affirmative. “I would actually say it has been reinforced”, he said – stressing the health ministry is in the process of reaching agreements with ‘many private hospitals’ with a view to sharing the load during the pandemic.

With hours to go before parliament is due to approve the president’s text on the terms of the new State of Emergency (click here), Mr Costa said that it won’t mean that all the measures outlined will be adopted.

It’s all about ‘ticking all the boxes’ so that ways are open if required.

On the still thorny issue of the next State Budget, the PM reiterated the government’s position that it has to “think about tomorrow”.

Just as Claudia Joaquim, secretary of state for budget at the finance ministry told a conference in Lisbon yesterday, “not losing sight of budget balance is of utmost importance as it contributes to economic and social stability, and to maintaining credibility in the markets. After the pandemic the country must be able to re-balance its public accounts”.

Thus issues with Bloco de Esquerda, one of PS Socialists’ former allies in the first executive’s ‘geringonça’ support unit, are clearly not going to ‘change much’ in the way of the government’s approach.

Said Mr Costa, the door remains open to further talks, but the budget in essence is, in his opinion, one with “the greatest social dimension” of the last five years”.

“To be honest, I do not understand the reasons for the Bloco de Esquerda (BE) taking the position it has”, he told his interviewer. But “there will certainly be several subjective political reasons that determine the Left Bloc’s voting power”.

Last week, Express suggested BE’s veto had much more to do with it wanting to distance itself from Costa and the Socialists at a time when it looks likely that they are losing popularity.

Since then however, President Marcelo has said in an hour-long interview on RTP that it’s quite normal for governments in times of crisis to be voted out – indeed, it is almost to be expected.

Nonetheless, Portugal’s PM has reiterated his commitment to seeing this crisis through.

“When the pandemic is over, the force for reconstruction cannot be interrupted. I don’t just want to be here, I must be.

“At a moment when the country is going through so much, the last thing would be to turn one’s back.

“I certainly didn’t choose to govern during a pandemic, but i won’t be running away from it”, he pledged.

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