Under secretary of State for health António Lacerda Sales

“Progressive, gradual and cautious” – Portugal’s exit from Covid restrictions unlikely to blaze any trails

Tomorrow is the long-awaited day when experts who have led Portugal’s response to the pandemic are expected to plot an easing of restrictions.

But while some countries are trailblazing their way out of the morass of measures and laws, Portugal doesn’t look likely to at all.

A poker-faced under secretary of state for health today reminded reporters that yes, certain indicators are good, but some (like the number of deaths per million inhabitants) “imply ponderation”.

An infectious diseases specialist almost never previously cited has been given ample space in Diário de Notícias suggesting the country should only move forwards with a release on restrictions when the vast majority of people have received their booster shots.

Fernando Maltez, director of infectiology at Lisbon’s Curry Cabral hospital, believes “while we have a significant part of the younger population, namely children from the ages of 5-11, still to vaccinate, I do not think we should move very fast…”

Indeed, he is clearly one of the so-called experts who believe a new variant could appear on the scene that “brings with it more serious illness, more mortality and greater transmission”.

Virologist Pedro Simas is the polar opposite in terms of forecasting to Fernando Maltez.

He has always maintained that viruses generally learn to keep their hosts alive (and thus become more amenable to live with click here).

He has been telling SIC this week that there should be an Augean stables purge of Covid measures: “complete abolition of isolation of the infected”; a “drastic reduction of measures” and focus on natural immunity, which he sees as “very important”.

Pedro Simas clearly believes vaccination has been key in helping control death in the most vulnerable, but now it is time to let everyone get back to the precious process of actually living. No more testing; no more masks and no more separating people into ‘Covid’, and ‘Non-Covid’ wards in hospitals.

“We have to transit to real ‘endemia’ which is endemia with natural immunity”, he told SIC, stressing that he has “very great hope” that this particular strain of coronavirus will end up being like all the others that the world has managed to live with perfectly comfortably.

Neither Pedro Simas nor Fernando Maltez are part of the regular ‘team’ that has advised the government through the last two years. Pedro Simas’ expertise however has been featured widely on television slots as he really has never been wrong – just a little more enthusiastic perhaps than the standard lines coming from the DGS (health authority).

Thus it is very likely tomorrow’s meeting at Infarmed (medicines authority) will see the government presented with less radical proposals than those suggested by Pedro Simas, and slightly more ambitious than those proffered by Fernando Maltez.

No decisions are likely to be made tomorrow. They should come on Thursday, following the meeting of the Council of Ministers – and they will very possibly have a timeline (maybe only beginning the following week).

Expresso writes that it expects the daily Covid bulletins to end – and much more importantly, it expects the rule about access to restaurants/ hotels etc being limited to people presenting Covid Digital Certificates to fall – not simply because the vast majority of citizens have been vaccinated and boosted, but because very few establishments are adhering to it.

Another likely change is to the whole ‘State of Calamity’ (which Portugal has been in since December).

It is clear we are no longer in any State of Calamity, therefore this label may also be dispensed with.

As the country approaches this auspicious moment, other countries, like Lithuania, have decided to drop all Covid restrictions completely, on the basis that “prolonged strict Covid-19 measures can potentially cause economic and social harm”.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com