Manuel Carmo Gomes, one of the country's leading epidemiologists who has been driving response through the pandemic

Weekend lockdowns: experts ‘doubt they will change anything’

As Lisbon prepares for its first weekend ‘lockdown’ in the latest strategy to halt the spread of the Delta (Indian) variant, experts and epidemiologists have warned the plan is unlikely to ‘work’.

An article cited by Público puts the situation into an easy-to-understand picture: “Closing Greater Lisbon to protect the rest of the country is like using one’s hand to stop the wind”.

The bottom line is that the damage has already been done.

Mobility over just the last long weekend will have seen to it that hundreds if not thousands of cases of the new variant spread from the capital to other corners of the country, most notably the Algarve.

Says Jornal i: “cases have already increased significantly in the Algarve and are rising throughout the country”.

In one aspect, the British decision to reclassify Portugal as an amber list country predicted the way infections were headed. But Britain itself – despite its stellar vaccination rollout – is in exactly the same boat, only yesterday registering ‘the highest number of new cases since February’.

In other words, it is not just Portugal that is ‘back’ in the thick of a new round of pandemic fog.

But it is ‘just Portugal’ that our experts are being consulted over.

Epidemiologist Manuel Carmo Gomes believes: “We’re running the risk of thousands of new cases per day again…”

Wednesday and Thursday’s Covid bulletins both saw new infections spiral over the 1,000-mark; the only ‘saving grace’ being that people entering hospital are not ‘as ill’ as they were in the winter, and they are generally younger.

The wider problem is that if measures in place are truly akin to ‘trying to stop the wind with one’s hand’, what is the answer? New lockdowns? Further destruction of jobs and livelihoods?

Or is it time to change the approach?

These questions will be haunting all those in positions of responsibility.

Bizarrely, Spain – where infections and deaths are far higher than those being registered in Portugal – has announced that from June 26 citizens will no longer be required to wear masks in outdoor situations. Could this be a sign that the government there is changing tack?

What is clear is that experts in Portugal are not.

Telling Diario de Notícias that he ‘cannot see how the plan to lockdown Greater Lisbon at weekends will combat the situation’, Manuel Carmo Gomes said: “I sincerely hope I am wrong, but I think that now the only way to stop infection will be with more rigid confinement…”

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