Portugal’s State of Emergency is likely to stay in place till May – in order to legitimise all the restrictions on everyday life and business activity that remain in place.
This was the message given yesterday by President of the Republic Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa as he visited a primary school in Lisbon.
In between photo antics with the children, the head of state managed to give some quite larded political messages – not least that Europe needs to ‘pull itself together’ and behave like a grown up.
“Europe cannot be a kingdom of selfishness”, he said, referring to the fairly chaotic vaccination process orchestrated by the bloc.
This far, he said, he ‘has to recognise’ that vaccination “hasn’t gone well in Europe”.
Citing failures in supply, production and delivery of drugs which led to the failure to comply with contracts, Marcelo stressed that the second quarter of this year must see recovery “from what was not possible during the first”.
The farce involving suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine in various countries last week was, in his mindset, completely avoidable.
It should not be up to each individual country to decide whether or not to suspend a vaccine. “It would have been preferable” for Europe “as a whole” to address its concerns (as it eventually did) to a referral body (in this case the European Medicines Agency) which almost immediately declared the vaccine “safe and effective”.
The EU should, in other words, have behaved like “a union and not a sum of selfishness”, he said.
This was the kind of message that could only have been given in a ‘relaxed setting’. To have delivered it from a podium would have somehow been a great deal more ‘aggressive’.
As it was, with children whooping around in the background, it was a quiet way of ‘putting the record straight’ and getting on with the job.
Reacting to the rather bizarre utterance by European Commissioner Thierry Breton that he would like to think Europe could reach herd immunity by Bastille Day (July 14), Macelo said Portugal’s objectives remain unaltered – 70% of the population should be vaccinated by September.
“This is the fundamental goal. And for it to be possible, we need to have vaccines and the rhythm of vaccination has to be intense”.
Last night’s evening news was full of the government’s plans to start intensifying Portugal’s roll-out from this weekend, with mass-vaccination campaigns programmed as further supplies reach the country.
April will see the Johnson&Johnson/ Janssen vaccine arriving (1.25 million doses). This will be a ‘gamechanger’ for Portugal as it is a one-shot jab, and will help authorities ‘catch up’ on all the lost time.