After one month of quarantine, Portugal numbers regarding the containment of Covid-19 appear clearly positive, especially compared with nearest neighbours Spain and Italy. The President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, announced his will to extend the State of Emergency until the beginning of May. The measure is a strong signal that the Portuguese will continue to self-restraint to minimize the spread of the disease.
Some international media outlets started to question why and how are the Portuguese being so successful in the fight against the pandemic.
The French radio France Inter questioned premier António Costa about the situation, and the head of government replied that the Portuguese are self-disciplined. This is what we observed here, on the ground. From the beginning of March, there was a growing movement of people taking voluntary measures of self-restriction. Before the issuing of the State of Emergency, schools were closed – mainly because the government felt public pressure to do so. And even before the closing of schools, there were bars closing, events being cancelled, and so on. There was almost no need for repression measures since then.
France Inter added that the geographic isolation might have been a factor, as the closing of the border with Spain likely worked from the beginning. Tourism high season is in the Summer, so the movement of people in late February and early March was not significant.
Learning from experience
Having watched the situation unfolding in Asia since the beginning of the year and in Italy since late February, the Portuguese authorities had the time to learn from the experience of others. The news from Italy created a sense of urgency.
The English-language news site Portugal Resident mentions not only France Inter but also other international media outlets, especially the New York Times, citing Portuguese political stability. There was a great deal of consensus among the country’s political institutions from the beginning. Not only the prime minister and the president have been cooperating, but the Parliament too – there has been no votes against the 1st issuing of the State of Emergency. Even Spanish premier Pedro Sanchez, appealing to the opposition in the Parliament, praised the Portuguese leader of the opposition, Rui Rio, for the way he was cooperating with the prime minister.
Fortunately, the political stability that Portugal is showing in times of crisis will be precious to help the country to get out of it. And every expat and foreign resident here are reaping the benefits of it today.