Science first, then politics. The recipe has been clear and has gone well in Portugal: before making a decision, politicians have to consult with experts. But this Thursday, at the Infarmed meeting, the party leaders brought the incomplete notes, although they are on time to go to São Bento to tell the Prime Minister what they think about the matter. The experts, according to party leaders heard by the Observer, made it clear that it takes 14 days to assess the impact of deflation. But only nine passed. This means, as the President of the Republic himself confirmed abroad, that there is “little data to allow firm conclusions”. Only on May 18 – precisely the day when the opening is scheduled – will the scientists have more concrete figures, but on that day there will already be children on their way to daycare centers and students on their way to high school.
The interpretation of a party leader heard by the Observer after listening to the experts at the meeting is that “there should be three weeks between each measure”. Another party leader agrees that “there was no data to assess the lack of definition”. For two reasons: the Portuguese did not go out much and not much time has passed.
Still behind closed doors, not running away from what he would say outside, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa noted that everything seems to be “going well”, but asked “prudence”And made it clear that“it is necessary to re-evaluate the measures in June“. The President himself then suggested, with the help of the Prime Minister, that the next meeting between experts and the political elite should be in June only.
Will the decision, however, be taken blindly? No. There is some data that shows that the situation remains controlled for now: the R is slightly below 1 across the country (0.98), hospitalizations have decreased (including in intensive care), as well as the rate of Lethality. The sirens that we need to retreat to have stopped.
The R is, however, higher than 1 in some regions (such as Lisbon and Vale do Tejo), which the PSD deputy, Ricardo Batista Leite, classified out there as being on the “razor’s edge”. After the President spoke, António Costa wanted to ask again about the importance of outbreaks in increasing R. The DGS specialist Rita Sá Machado went to the computer and put back a graph, in which it can be seen that the localized outbreaks contributed to increase the outbreak (case of hostels in Lisbon or the case of Moura). The party leaders heard by the Observer were unable, however, to interpret Costa’s question, whether it was “a concern with the fact that it would allow events like football” or if it was a way of “de-dramatizing the R”, saying that it was only higher than 1 due to very specific cases. The R in the North, for example, is 0.91, as Marcelo would also say to journalists.
There were elephants in the room who showed up in front of the cameras, outside the meeting: Novo Banco and Centeno. There were those at the outset who did not stop talking about the subject, such as the leader of the CDS, Francisco Rodrigues dos Santos, who regretted that time was wasted with “sad novel” between António Costa and Mário Centeno instead of combating the effects of the pandemic . On the way out, still far from the microphones, André Ventura questioned Marcelo Rebelo Sousa: “When will you announce your candidacy?”. The President replied that the decision “it’s not for now”And that Ventura himself had to assume it.
André Ventura reiterated that the decision had already been taken and that he had already heard the prime minister launch the candidacy of the current head of state to Belém, which now only Marcelo needed to take over. There would be no answer. In an allusion to tweet de Ventura on May 13 when the leader of Chega said that “his political mission is deeply linked to Fatima” and that “this is, perhaps” his “great Secret”, Marcelo commented: “I didn’t know it was the fourth shepherdess of Fátima“.
Returning to Covid-19, the Government has always said that the end of the State of Emergency would not imply the end of the restriction measures and the Portuguese seem to have respected the rules. On the 4th of May the first phase of “deflation” began and the Portuguese did not rush to the streets.
The experts made it clear that, for now, there is no reason to go back on the measures of deflation – the R index (which measures contagion for each infected person) remains, on the national average, below 1, although with regional variations, and the situation looks “stable”. But warn that it is too early to rigorously assess the impacts of the first phase of the economy’s reopening – only at the beginning of next week, when 14 days of deflation are complete, will they have more concrete data, which will be distributed by politicians and social partners, electronically. But by then, the country will be in a new phase of recovery.
A social partner notes, from the experts’ data, that “people are aware of the situation and did not react quickly, quickly, to the lack of definition: on the 4th, everything didn’t go out onto the street“. The resumption is being made “slowly”, with departures happening mainly for work or shopping, adds another social partner. In fact, according to a survey whose results were presented at the meeting, the Portuguese continue to remain at home “whenever they can”.
The second phase of recovery starts on Monday (for example, with the reopening of restaurants) and, following the calendar, the next meeting of experts with the political elite and the social partners should take place on the 28th. “But the experts say that on the 28th of May they are probably unable to reach any more solid conclusions about the effects of the deconflation of the 18th ”, hence it is“ very likely ”that they will only meet again in June, adds a social partner.
The effect seems to be twofold, according to a survey presented to the social and political partners: if people with wages below 650 euros were the ones who lost the most income, they are also those who are most exposed to the virus (for performing professions in which teleworking does possible and that require the physical presence of workers – for example, cleaning or factories).
Data on the number of infections and deaths were presented by age group, but the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, suggested that the study should introduce the socio-economic situation: to conclude whether, indeed, the poorest are living. be more infected because they are more exposed, given the nature of the profession. The social partners heard by the Observer agree that it is “necessary to have a more precise design, even to understand what measures must be taken”.
In addition, the uncertainty in the Portuguese as to when they will be able to return to “normality” is growing. If there are “five or six weeks”, explains one of the social partners, the Portuguese said that they would quickly resume activity, now most respond that they “don’t know” – a percentage that has doubled in the last few weeks.
The survey presented also sought to understand how the Portuguese are adopting the safety recommendations: only 4 to 5% do not wear a mask, 30% to 40% do, but only in certain situations, and more than 40% use it whenever they leave home .
In addition, the country has already carried out more than half a million tests and increased the testing capacity of the laboratories (public and private). On March 15, 18 laboratories were able to perform 1,000 tests per day; on May 5, there were already 54 laboratories with a capacity of 10,000 tests and on the 12th, they became 76 (also with a capacity of 10,000 tests).