“We’ll tighten the rules”, says naval chief who takes over Portugal’s vaccine task force

With Portugal’s vaccination programme in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, vice-admiral Henrique Gouveia e Melo has been swiftly appointed as the replacement national task force coordinator.

Hours after the resignation of his predecessor, Gouveia e Melo told reporters: “We will tighten up the rules.

“We are ‘silent service’. We will try, with our military training but with the ministry of health, to respond in the best way to the wishes of all the Portuguese”.

Says Público, the vice-admiral was already part of the task-force, and will thus be able to ‘assume functions immediately’.

Up till now he has been responsible for the logistical/ planning part of the programme, leading the military team that is giving support at SNS hospitals in Lisbon.

Beyond that, he is part of the Defence ministry’s State of Emergency monitoring structure and a deputy for Planning and Coordination on the Armed Forces General Staff.

Gouveia e Melo’s appointment, say all reports, has delighted President Marcelo who believes there should be ‘greater involvement of the Armed Forces’ in the task force. It has also removed from ‘power’ any element connected to political parties (Francisco Ramos was a former Secretary of State for health in various Socialist governments).

Says Público, the 60-year-old began his career in submarines, has been a spokesman for the Navy, commander of the Naval Base in Lisbon and commander of EUROMARFOR, the European Maritime Force.

He will however have his work cut out for him. 

Talking on SIC television news this evening, political commentator Bernardo Ferrão cited a study by Público that has concluded that with the speed vaccines are being administered in Portugal this far (even if to hundreds of the ‘wrong people’) it will take until August 10, 2024 to inoculate the required 70% of the adult population to attain ‘group immunity’.

This translates into the Vice Admiral having to speed up the vaccine rollout from little more than 10,300 shot per day, to 57,600.

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