“Very aggressive strategy” in place to halt spread of virus in Lisbon/ Vale do Tejo areas

A ‘very aggressive strategy’ is in place to try and halt the spread of Covid-19 in various outlying Lisbon neighbourhoods, all of them socially-deprived.

As news reports have been explaining over the last few days, the situation in various suburbs of the capital has given cause for concern.

It is the reason for the government refusing to allow shopping malls in the area to reopen this week (a final decision on reopening is due on Thursday). It is the reason why various cafés in the Bairro da Jamaica were shut down over the weekend, and it is the reason for the appeal made by President Marcelo – again over the weekend – for young people to avoid ‘large congregations’.

Much as the authorities’ messages have been taken on board by the majority of the Portuguese public, young people from all areas have been taking chances. There have been impromptu parties and gatherings. Even in the Algarve, a ‘deconfinement party’, has led to at least one new infection.

But as health director Graça Freitas has stressed, these new infections have not affected the numbers entering hospital/ intensive care, or indeed the death-rates.

Deaths are fairly ‘static’ in the low teens every day these days, and tend to come in the older age groups – particularly for victims suffering underlying health issues.

Thus for now the answer has been testing en-masse. Authorities have the capacity to test up to 7000 people per day, and at time of writing, the increase in the number of tests was not resulting in an increasing tally of positive cases.

Said Graça Freitas on Tuesday, only 4% of tests in specific areas were showing ‘positives’ for Covid-19 infection, which has helped calm authorities’ concerns.

Nonetheless, the Lisbon/ Vale do Tejo area remains the region with most cases (2,447) by far – outstripping areas in the north (that has also been a focal point of infections) by roughly 1,000.

A recipient of quite considerable international praise for the way it is handling the pandemic, Portugal still has some way to go.

Graça Freitas accepts that “what we do today won’t see results tomorrow. We know  there will be people still incubating the disease. After the appearance of these new cases, we will have people actively displaying the virus over the next 14 days. All this will need to be accompanied”.

The rest of the country is less problematic: the Alentejo and Algarve “just have very small outbreaks”, the Centre of the country has ‘localised’ cases; Madeira and Azores are registering only ‘sporadic transmission’.

For the time being, a contact tracing app is not being considered. If a second wave was to hit however this could change.

With almost the whole country ‘back at work’ now, nightclubs and bars are the only sector still in ‘lockdown’.

Warning that they cannot survive like this, businesses have been dumbfounded  by the prime minister’s admission recently that reopening this summer may not be an option.

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image: from SIC television news on Bairro de Jamaica