President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa

President appeals for ‘calm’ as country’s number of Covid-19 infections increases

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has stressed the importance of “not entering into alarm” as the number of people confirmed with Covid-19 on national soil has risen to eight.

The good news behind the increase is that those testing positive had either been abroad – namely in Italy – or had infected people since returning.

In other words, there are no cases yet of the virus propagating from a ‘national source’.

A notable change in the list of victims is that we now have one woman confirmed with the virus, currently interned in hospital in Lisbon.

The woman is in her 40s and has recently returned from Italy (see update below).

By chance one reader has informed us of a letter received from a relative in Italy to say the virus was first flagged there in Rome, well over a month ago.

The infection was brought into Italy by a Chinese couple on holiday, the reader told us.

Victims currently being treated in Portuguese hospitals are of varying ages, ranging from early 30s to 60s.

Very little is coming through on their actual conditions.

The government meantime is refining ‘contingency plans’, outlining the kind of pay levels people will retain if forcibly quarantined, creating a 100 million credit-line for businesses affected by the virus and generally coordinating with other entities like the Armed Forces where it has ensured that military field hospitals could be opened up in the case of a national spike in this global epidemic.

It is much too soon to try and quantify the kind of economic damage this virus will cause the country, as Portugal will suffer domino-effects from other countries no matter what the situation ‘locally’ becomes.

Scare stories unfortunately remain the ‘order of the day’, with newspapers reporting that PSP and GNR police “still have no means with which to deal with Covid-19”, while the Syndicate of workers for registry and notaries’ offices has said it doesn’t feel its services are prepared to face the epidemic.

For now, schools remain open, even taking back pupils who recently returned from Italy, with no restrictions or time insisted for quarantine.

In Lagos, pupils in the 12th year at Escola Gil Eanes tell us: “The whole school knows the situation” (of a pupil recently returned from Milan), “but nothing has been done about it”.

How this virus ‘develops’ is what no one can tell.

Consumer association DECO has created a special hotline for people set to fly anywhere (tel 21 371 0282, between 10am to 6pm) in order to give information particularly on people’s ‘rights’ should they end up quarantined and require eventual repatriation.

The central number for anyone concerned they may have contracted Covid-19, remains Linha Saúde 24 (tel 808 242424).

UPDATE

The woman who has tested positive for Covid-19 is a teacher at the Escola Básica Roque Gameiro in Amadora, near Lisbon. As result of her diagnosis, a whole section of the school appears to have been put into 14-day quarantine. That’s 150 pupils, three janitors and five other teachers.

Say reports, the school will not be closing, but pupils and teachers with whom the woman came into most contact are now all undergoing a period of isolation.

Mário Durval, in charge of the regional health authority, said the pupils (all of the 7th, 8th and 11th years) will be contacted daily by the local health authority, so that if any of them start to feel ill “there will be immediate intervention”.

“Of course parents will be worried”, he said. But it is “the adequate measure considering the situation”.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com