Portugal has remained relatively unaffected by the coronavirus outbreak compared with other countries. Nevertheless, authorities remain cautious and are prepared to activate emergency measures and systems to deal with any health issues that might arise.
Throughout Portugal, latest reports indicate a total of 30 cases, most in the north and around Lisbon, although a first case was reportedly detected in the Algarve region over the weekend.
The main news has centred on the Portuguese president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who decided voluntarily to self-isolate for two weeks after learning that a student who attended an official event in the Palácio Nacional de Belém had subsequently been hospitalised.
An official statement from the presidency noted, “At the end of the event, photos were taken with students and teachers and he congratulated them one by one. Despite not showing any viral symptoms, the president has decided to cancel all his public activities, which included events with a large number of Portuguese.”
Official Update and Reassurances
Meanwhile, the Algarve Regional Tourism Board and Algarve Regional Health Administration released a statement regarding COVID-19 in the region, before reports of the possible first case became known.
“Although no case of people infected with the new coronavirus (COVID-19) in the Algarve has been confirmed, until 1 pm on Friday 6 March, and the degree of risk is constantly being assessed by the competent authorities, the Algarve Regional Health Administration (ARS Algarve) and the Algarve Tourism Region (RTA) have been following the evolution of this phenomenon closely, following the guidelines of the Directorate-General for Health.
“Thus, the presidents of RTA, João Fernandes, and ARS Algarve, Paulo Morgado, considered it essential to meet with associations representing the tourism sector to inform about the evolution of the epidemic, clarify the available health responses and establish prevention procedures and infection control in companies.
“Public and private entities have a fundamental role to play in protecting the health and safety of residents and visitors, so close cooperation between the State and companies is crucial in limiting any negative impacts on society and the economy.
“In this sense, the contributions of these associations were collected on the main concerns and needs identified with the respective associates, and the degree of implementation of the contingency plans at company level was also assessed. Likewise, the president of ARS Algarve made himself available to carry out a training course for hotel directors on COVID-19, which should happen soon.”
In conclusion, the statement stressed, “For the Algarve it is essential to ensure that the sector contributes to the containment of COVID-19, in order to guarantee security and minimise the current and future impact on the regional tourism operation.”
For the moment, there have been no reports of major changes to operations at Faro’s international airport, although last week the national carrier TAP announced plans to cancel some flights in Portugal due to decreasing demand.