Vishnu R Nair

TOTAL FREEDOM – Experts tipped to tell government it’s time to “free Portugal from Covid restrictions”

The team responsible for Portugal’s deconfinement plan want to see an end to all obligatory measures imposed in the name of the pandemic. This proposal will be presented at the next meeting at Infarmed tomorrow (Thursday).

This is the opening paragraph in a story in Expresso today, coincidentally on the very day Portugal becomes the most highly-vaccinated country in the world (see Our World in Data).

“Masks, digital certificates, limits on numbers (at venues or in spaces), hand hygiene and all restrictions imposed on the Portuguese against Covid should stop being obligatory from the end of the month”, the paper continues.

Specialists defend “there is no need to maintain obligatory measures, whatever they are”. 

What is needed is a “re-education of the population to make their own assessments of risk, leaving behaviour to the discretion of each person” – even to the point that it should be up to people whether or not they wear masks into shops anymore; whether they bother with hand gel.

Only two ‘grey areas’ persist, say the experts who – Expresso explains – “prefer not to be identified before the meeting on Thursday”: how to handle this change in schools and public transports.

“Removing all the rules against pandemic infection in schools, buses, trains and the Metro remain the least firm step albeit for emotional reasons”, says the paper.

“From the point of view of the protection of public health, we do not need to maintain control measures as before, but ending all restrictions can lead to people no longer feeling safe – and there is no need for that to happen”, stresses one of the members of the group that has been working throughout the last 18 months on advising the government. 

It is also accepted that DGS health chiefs won’t like this new strategy.

Says Expresso, the experts recognise it “will have some obstacles”.

Said the paper’s source: “Of course more conservative positions will emerge from the DGS. But people need to understand that Portugal is in ideal conditions to return to normality”.

Bizarrely, the country’s falling birthrate has given it an advantage: Only 11% of the population is under the age of 12 (and therefore unvaccinated). 

Other countries, like Israel – where adherence to the vaccines has been huge – are hampered by the fact that 22% of their population is made up of under-12s, making all the difference when it comes to a population’s level of protection.

In the pandemic experts’ viewpoint, Portugal has every reason to believe in “a collective victory” – particularly as all age groups have had such stellar vaccine coverage.

Media sources have stressed time and again how the over 50s are well into a 99% rate of vaccine coverage, while even 93% of the over-25s have been immunised.

It’s now a question of waiting first to hear what exactly goes down at tomorrow’s meeting at Infarmed – and then to learn what the government goes on to decide.

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