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COVID-19 Prime Ministers Announcement following Council of Minister’s Meeting 25th November 2021

 

KEY POINTS

Portugal will move to a Situation of Calamity with effect 1st December 2021

Mandatory masks in all enclosed spaces unless otherwise indicated by the DGS.

The digital certificate becomes mandatory in restaurants, tourist establishments and local accommodation, events with marked places and gyms.

A mandatory negative test (even for vaccinated) applies to visits to nursing homes; visits to patients admitted to health establishments; attendance to large events without marked places or in improvised venues and in sports venues, clubs and bars.

The negative test is also mandatory for all flights arriving in Portugal, “regardless of the origin or nationality of the passenger”.

Control at airports will be strengthened with the hiring, from private security companies, of the necessary staff.

Each passenger disembarked without a test will represent a fine of 20 thousand euros to be paid by the airline. At airports there will be a retention zone for anyone who has been transported without a negative test. Accommodation and food expenses imposed on those who have to remain in isolation because they have tested positive at entering will be covered by the airlines.

The tests required to enter the country through airports are PCR and antigen

The Council of Ministers decided to postpone the reopening of the schools after Christmas vacations: classes only start on January 10th.

These five days less in schools are compensated by removing two days from the Carnival break and three days from the Easter break.

Also from 2 to 9 January, teleworking becomes mandatory and clubs will be closed.

THE ANNOUNCEMENT

António Costa stated that, thanks to the efforts of the citizens, Portugal is the country in Europe with the highest rate of vaccination. Aspect that is reflected in the lower number of deaths and hospitalizations.

Comparing the situation today, with 3150 cases of infection, with the situation a year ago, there are far fewer people in intensive care units. “We are frankly better than a year ago,” says Costa. The conclusion we must draw, is that vaccination is worth it.

The first measure is, therefore, to reinforce the vaccination effort, through the booster dose in eligible people: over 65 years of age and with a second dose for more than five months; people with a medical prescription for vaccination and patients who have recovered from the disease.

Christmas will be a time of risk, recalls António Costa.

“It is time to adopt new measures”, he adds.

The first steps are general recommendations:

– Recommended to do self-tests, for example before joining the family

– Teleworking is recommended, whenever possible.

 

Please see the Council of Ministers Full PowerPoint here

 

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Dissolution of Parliament does not prevent a new state of emergency

 

By this time, last year, Portugal was already in a state of emergency. One year after the pandemic and with 86% of the population with complete vaccination (and the elderly receiving the third dose), this scenario, despite the worsening of the pandemic situation, is still not on the table. However, with the Assembly of the Republic dissolved from the end of November or the beginning of December for early elections to be held on January 30, the question arises: with the Parliament dissolved, it is possible to decree a state of emergency, if necessary?

According to the regime of the state of siege and the state of emergency, it is possible. The declaration of a state of emergency remains the responsibility of the President of the Republic, after having heard the Government. Subsequently, the declaration must have the authorization of the Assembly of the Republic “or, when this is not in session and its immediate meeting is not possible, of the respective standing committee”, refers the regime. This is the case that Portugal will live in December and January if it needs to enter a state of emergency.

“When authorized by the Standing Committee of the Assembly of the Republic, the declaration of a state of siege or a state of emergency will have to be ratified by the Plenary as soon as it is possible to convene it “, adds the regime, specifying that “neither the Assembly of the Republic nor its Standing Committee may, respectively, authorize and confirm the authorization with amendments”. The standing committee is composed of deputies appointed by the parliamentary groups according to their respective representation.

This is corroborated by constitutionalist Tiago Duarte to the ECO: ” The Constitution of the Portuguese Republic expressly says that in the event of the dissolution of the Assembly of the Republic, it is the standing committee that decides “, he explains, noting that the plenary of Parliament must be convened immediately afterwards — not least because the current deputies maintain their mandate until the electoral act — for this one to vote. If the declaration fails, the state of emergency must end.

However, the professor of constitutional law at the Catholic University adds that the plenary would be convened “only for the purpose of voting on the state of emergency, leaving it after being in office.” In other words, deputies would not have any parliamentary instrument to oversee and oversee the Government with regard to the regulation of the state of emergency, which is carried out by the Executive in institutional coordination with the President of the Republic.

The standing commission of the Assembly of the Republic will be constituted after the dissolution, which can happen either at the end of November or at the beginning of December. By proposal of the PSD, this permanent commission should have a weekly meeting until January 30th, with the presence of members of the current Government. The parliamentary leader of the Social Democrats, Adão Silva, admitted that it is not “usual” for the standing committee to meet weekly, but argued that this will be a period in which “the Government is in full function” so parliamentary oversight has to “to gain the possible dynamic within the constitutional and regimental rules”.

 

Until an eventual approval of the state of emergency, there are several measures that can be reintroduced since, at this moment, after the last phase of de-confinement, there are few remaining restrictions. Earlier this month, Expresso wrote that the Government was confident that it will not be necessary to introduce a state of emergency — no one has publicly ruled out that hypothesis in the past —, simply resorting to the instruments of the Basic Civil Protection Law depending on the evolution of the pandemic in next few weeks.

Article EcoSapo

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One day there will be an earthquake forecast. It’s just not known when

Unlike the sky, the Earth’s interior is not transparent. And that’s why a seismologist like Fernando Carrilho faces very different challenges from colleagues from other departments at the Portuguese Institute of the Sea and the Atmosphere (IPMA), who can relate the previous day’s forecasts to the clouds they see on the horizon. “There are earthquakes originating from depths of 10, 20, 100 kms or more… and the existing technologies do not allow us to know what is happening in these places”, explains the head of the Geophysics Division at IPMA.

In the 1970s, several scientists tried to find a way to predict earthquakes — but that first impulse has lost much of its force after 20 years. “If I say that there is going to be an earthquake of magnitude 3 or 4 in Lisbon, I could be correct (due to the characteristics of the region). But I cannot know when this earthquake will occur. A forecast must have an instant of occurrence, location and magnitude, otherwise it is not an earthquake forecast”, adds Fernando Carrilho.

The expectation of the last century has failed and recent technological advances have not helped much either. “Tomography scans of the Earth’s interior are already being carried out, but the images do not have much resolution, in addition to requiring very expensive and time-consuming scientific campaigns”, explains Rui Moura, professor at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto.

Given the difficulty in collecting data, some scientists even tried to establish a relationship between earthquakes and changes in electromagnetic fields or radon gas emission. But these studies were also inconclusive. “There are several places with an increase in radon emissions and changes in electromagnetic fields that have not suffered earthquakes”, recalls Fernando Carrilho.

In the absence of a solution, efforts began to focus on mitigation. And Japan, with four thousand seismic stations and sensor networks in the Pacific, is the benchmark in this approach. Seismic waves travel across the ocean floor at speeds of four to seven kilometre per second, but sensor networks “go beyond them” by traveling at the speed of light allowed by fibre optics. Which gives you to issue alerts tens of seconds before the earthquake affects the archipelago, famous for its automation. “Even if it’s three seconds ahead, it makes a difference. It’s enough time to open doors, turn off the gas or for the elevators to stop in the right place automatically”, says Rui Moura.

Mexico and the US already have sensor networks — and there are plans for Portugal to join the “mitigation” club. The project has been developed by IPMA, Instituto de Telecomunicações and Instituto D. Luís, in the LEA consortium. The objective is to take advantage of the replacement of the ring of submarine telecommunications cables that link the continent, Azores and Madeira with sensor cables. Fernando Carrilho believes that the investment pays off, “even with a 10% increase in costs”.

The renovation will have to be completed by 2027, when the current cables expire. “The State Budget already provided for this investment, but it ended up not being approved. It is an urgent decision that will have to be taken soon”, concludes Fernando Carrilho.

Source Expresso

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28TH OCTOBER 1856 – 165TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE FIRST RAILWAY LINE IN PORTUGAL

On October 28, 1856, the first section of the railway in Portugal was inaugurated. With a distance of 36 km, it connected Lisbon (Cais dos Soldados) to Carregado. The new means of transport consisted of two locomotives (the “Portugal” and the “Coimbra”) and sixteen carriages. The route to be covered was 36.5 km and took around 40 minutes. The following day, it was open to the public with two round trips per day: Lisbon – Carregado 8:45 am and 4 pm / Carregado – Lisbon 7 am and 2 pm

On the opening day, at 10:00 am, the Royal train, pulled by the Santarém and Coimbra locomotives, followed with King Pedro V on board, as well as the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, to bless the new technology. The guests’ train, with about 9 carriages, was pulled by the Lisbon locomotive.

At the time, the work was presented as a “great icon of regeneration and policy of national progress”, but it was far from being unanimous by the main representatives of national letters at the time. “Almeida Garrett was one of the writers who criticized the introduction of the railway in Portugal, in the 19th century. The author of “Viagens na Minha Terra” considered that the railway “was not the kind of progress that the country needed” and feared that the new means of transport would aggravate the gap between the big cities of the coast and the interior.

165 years later, here we are, benefiting from one of the greatest engineering feats ever made in Portugal, the construction of the railway, carried out by visionaries who went far beyond what had already been imagined and advocated in Portugal. It had its setbacks, as in everything else, the financing, which turned out to be almost entirely private, with the operation of the railway being carried out by private companies

Today the congress will take place at the MNF headquarters, in Entroncamento, in the district of Santarém, organized by the Iberian Association of Railway History (ASIHF), with the collaboration of the Lisbon University Institute (CIES), from the University of Évora (CIDEHUS) and from the Universidade Nova de Lisboa (CIUHCT), with mandatory registration for those who want to participate, according to a note from the museum.

On Thursday, October 28, the day in which, in 1856, the first section of the Portuguese railway between Lisbon and Carregado was inaugurated, the new MNF web page, resulting from the “Museu Nacional Ferroviário” project, becomes available. Welcome All, financed by the Accessible Tourism Support Line, of Turismo de Portugal.

On the same day, at 17:00, a sculptural piece alluding to the Caminho de Ferro, by sculptor João Duarte, will be inaugurated.

The “Joana” Locomotive, with illustration by artist Kruela d’Enfer, will be on display from Friday to Sunday, an initiative included in the European Year of Rail Transport, “which aims to promote the use of the train as a more sustainable means of transport”.

On Saturday, from 10:30 am, there will be a visit to the railway districts of Entroncamento, in a partnership with Infraestruturas de Portugal and the Municipality of Entroncamento, which aims to make known the history and future projects of this heritage.

At 11:00 am, the visit “On Board” will allow you to “know inside several carriages, lounges, locomotives and the Presidential Train, on a journey through 165 years of railway history in Portugal”, an activity that will be repeated on Sunday afternoon, with interpretation in Portuguese sign language.

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Prime Minister Address to the Nation following Council of Minister’s meeting 23rd September 2021

 

At the end of the Council of Ministers meeting, this Thursday, 23 September, Prime Minister António Costa announced that Portugal is now “in a position to move to the third phase”.

“Today we are very close to where we were in March,” the Prime Minister said, announcing that the incidence is now 140.1 infections per 100,000 inhabitants and the R(t) is 0.81, when in March it was 0.78.

“Portugal is in first place in the percentage of population with complete vaccination,” António Costa announced. At the moment, the vaccination rate is 83.4%.

According to the task force estimates, Portugal is expected to reach 85% of vaccinated Portuguese population over the next week.

From 1 October, the country will evolve from a state of contingency to a state of alert.

From that date, it is foreseen the reopening of bars and nightclubs requiring a digital certificate for access.

Limits on operating hours will end and restaurants will no longer be subject to a maximum limit of people per group.

As for the digital certificate, it is no longer required to enter restaurants, tourist establishments and local accommodation and also in gyms with group classes, casinos, spas and hot springs.

The limitation of capacity in commercial establishments, weddings and christenings and other family events, and the existing restrictions for cultural shows or popular festivals will also disappear.

Besides access to bars and nightclubs, the digital certificate continues to be compulsory for travel by air or sea and for visits to nursing homes or hospitals. The certificate remains compulsory for large cultural, sporting and corporate events.

In this new phase, the mask continues to be mandatory in public transport, nursing homes, hospitals, in the halls of shows or events whenever there is not a two-metre distance between people and also in large commercial surfaces.

Asked why the Government decided to announce the third phase of deconfinement before the goal of 85 per cent vaccination was reached, António Costa began by recalling that on 29 July the “deconfinement programme” was presented, considering the progress of the vaccination process.

“Nothing that we are announcing today is particularly new or unexpected. We had already announced it on 29 July,” he said, adding that restrictions are only “appropriate” according to the situation.

If vaccination is increasing, incidence and the risk of transmission are decreasing, the Prime Minister considers that “nothing justifies” imposing more restrictions “beyond what is necessary”.

“The pandemic is not over and even though we can consider it controlled from the moment we have 85 per cent of the population vaccinated, the risk remains”, António Costa warns.

The Prime Minister recalls that vaccines do not ensure 100% immunity and that there is “a small, very small, ultra-minority of people who refuse to be vaccinated”. “We know that the entire population under 12 years of age is not vaccinated and therefore the risk exists,” stresses the Prime Minister.

Regarding the use of masks and the existence of classes in isolation at the beginning of the school year, the Prime Minister began by recalling that it is no longer mandatory to wear masks in outdoor spaces, such as in the playground.

In addition, the Directorate-General of Health will update the rules on isolation to allow a “response to the problems” that still exist, taking into account “the effective risk of disease transmission in the school population”.

SOURCE: RTP.

 

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Infarmed meeting Thursday 16th September 2021

 

At the end of the metting

At the end of the presentation, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa took the stage to praise the pandemic vaccination task force, the Ministry of Health and the Portuguese. “Just yesterday at an international meeting where there were 14 European countries, Portugal was by far the one with the highest vaccination rate by far. And I’m talking about the most economically advanced countries in Europe and they correlated this rate with vaccination and the measures taken. It was a race against time that made the difference against”. He then thanked the collaboration between the vice-admiral and the Ministry of Health, which withstood the “wear and tear”. “There was a team and there was leadership.”

Finally, the PR addressed the Portuguese: “And there was a response from the Portuguese, because they were not obliged to be vaccinated. I have known many young people in my family who hesitated to be vaccinated; they and their parents hesitated. Even those who hesitated decided to move forward. This response from the Portuguese is a key to the vaccination process. Nobody forced vaccination in Portugal. The Portuguese realized the importance. It is good to accentuate the tonic accent in those who adhered to the vaccination. This is very impressive and makes a difference compared to other countries where deniers have a greater expression. It is necessary to demonstrate this ultra-minority negative character in Portugal. I don’t know if it causes them tension, but the reality is this: the Portuguese people voted with an expression that there was no other election ”.And voted for vaccination.

A meeting of Infarmed was held on Thursday 16th September 2021.

The meeting, which maintains a semi-attendance format, is attended by the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the President of the Assembly of the Republic, Ferro Rodrigues, and the Prime Minister, António Costa.

The Minister of Health, Marta Temido, opens the meeting at Infarmed and gives the floor to Dr. Pedro Pinto Leite, head of the Division of Epidemiology and Statistics at DGS, to update the epidemiological situation in Portugal.

Portugal has 195 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, with a decreasing trend

The pandemic had four large waves, four peaks, the largest on January 29, 2021. Currently, the country has an incidence of 195 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants, with a decreasing trend. “We are at the end of a pandemic phase”, says Pedro Pinto Leite, now head of the information services department of the General Directorate of Health (DGS).

Up to 9 years of age, the incidence trend is stable to increasing, and in all other age groups the number of new cases is declining. The positivity is also decreasing, which is a sign that we are having “less virus circulating”, explains the expert.

The number of tests notified by age, on the one hand, shows a decrease in tests performed in young people and young adults, but an increase in testing in adults over 40 years of age, explained by the increase in screenings in schools and in the work context.

Admissions continue to go down

Pedro Pinto Leite, from DGS, says that there was a visible increase in admissions after the appearance of Delta, with a peak in July and August, but the trend has been decreasing. The same trend is seen in admissions to intensive care units, recovering the same pattern that existed in relation to age groups.

There are now 13 deaths per million inhabitants, below the ECDC threshold (20 deaths per million). Portugal now has 85% of the population with at least one dose of vaccine and 80% with full vaccination.

For every 15 hospitalized in intensive care, 14 did not have complete vaccination

The protection afforded by the vaccine continues to give clear positive signs: for every five cases of covid, four had not been fully vaccinated. And for every 15 cases admitted to intensive care, 14 did not have the complete vaccination schedule. Pedro Pinto Leite, from DGS, reinforces the “importance” of vaccination, making it clear that the risk of death is lower in all age groups after the protection provided by vaccines.

“The vaccination against covid-19 is a success”, he emphasizes. “And a phase of the pandemic ends.”

Rt has never been this low without confinement

As the Director-General of Health had previously mentioned, the DGS is working with three scenarios for the next autumn-winter, a phase that brings “uncertainty” and “some challenges”, including low temperatures and “others virus in circulation”.

Pedro Pinto Leite, from DGS, explained that the three scenarios play with the emergence or not of new variants of concern and with the evolution of immunity, which can have different impacts on incidence, hospitalizations and mortality.

In the first scenario, there is no new variant and immunity lasts an average of three years; in the second scenario, there is also no new variant but immunity has an average duration of one year; and in the third scenario, one works with the possibility of emerging a new variant, with immunity having an average duration of one year.

Each of these scenarios predicts a different type of response. In scenario 1, it is a “transition” response; in scenario 2, “control”; and in scenario 3 of “mitigation”.

“It is essential to maintain epidemiological surveillance and monitoring”, especially in the most vulnerable population groups.

15.33 hrs

Baltazar Nunes, responsible for the Epidemiological Investigation Unit of the Ricardo Jorge Institute, is now speaking about transmissibility and incidence.

It’s a fact. Portugal currently has an estimated infection transmissibility index of 0.84, the lowest value without having the Portuguese confined. Madeira is the only region in the country a little higher, but with a decreasing trend.

Baltazar Nunes, a mathematician and epidemiologist at the Ricardo Jorge Institute, confirms that the country is “clearly at the end of a pandemic phase.” Transmission of the pandemic virus is now very low and the merit is the high rate of vaccination. The expert explained that two to six weeks after inoculation, the vaccine is highly effective, remaining longer except for protection against infection, and there may be new patients and at least one symptom.

Published studies show that there is a reduction in effectiveness after 12 to 24 weeks against the infection, being more pronounced in older age groups. For now, the vaccine is a shield for 70% of infections and 95% of hospitalizations for covid-19.

There are several scenarios ahead of us, and the current resumption of activity is one of the critical points. On the table are three autumn/winter scenarios and the eventual emergence of new hazard variants and a reduction in vaccine effectiveness after one year are critical. If the vaccine loses properties, it is expected that transmission will increase and that in time it will coincide with the Christmas and New Year festivities. If that happened, January 2022 would once again be a period with mortality above the incarnate lines, immediately due to the circulation of other respiratory viruses.

Baltazar Nunes warned, however, that these are scenarios and not predictions and that we are in a situation of great pandemic control.

The expert spoke of several scenarios. In the first, in which there is no reduction in effectiveness, Portugal will remain below the red lines. However, in scenario 2 and 3, if there is a reduction in effectiveness the country could be above the red lines in the first half of January.

Indicators to be monitored in the autumn-winter phase:

– Incidence, hospitalizations and mortality of the most fragile age groups;

– Seroprevalence of antibodies against influenza and SARS-CoV-2;

– Effectiveness of covid-19 and flu vaccines;

– Ambient temperatures;

– Frequency of other respiratory viruses.

15.48 hrs

Fátima Ventura, director of the Scientific Evaluation Unit at Infarmed, is speaking about the development of vaccines against covid-19.

“Many vaccines continue to be developed. There are 30 vaccines in phase 3 and eight of them in phase 4, which means that they have already been approved. We also have two new contracts still under discussion”, he pointed out.

The specialist also referred that “vaccines also have their own life cycle” and, being “medicines of biological origin, they must follow the centralized procedure, that is, they must be approved by the European Commission”.

An extension of vaccination for children under 12 has not yet been submitted,” but it is expected that “by the end of the year” a request will be submitted for those over five to be eligible for vaccination, the expert noted.

About the booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine, the forecast is that it will be made six months after the second dose, in people over 12 years old.

The contracts signed with vaccine manufacturers provide for the supply of vaccines adapted to the variants of covid-19, explained the expert.

Vaccines still under evaluation:

– Novavax

– CureVac

– Sanofi

– Sputnik V

– Sinovac

16.04 hrs

It is the turn of João Paulo Gomes, a researcher at the Ricardo Jorge Institute, who talks about the variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

“We have sequenced more than 16,000 virus genomes. The Delta variant completely dominated as of mid-May. We have practically 100% prevalence of this variant in all regions of the country.”

No case of the Beta variant was detected from South Africa, and one case of Gama was detected in Lisbon and Vale do Tejo.

Delta is spread all over the world and more than 95% of the viruses belong to this genetic variant”, said João Paulo Gomes.

According to the expert, in countries with a low rate of vaccination, there is less immunity, therefore, there is more virus circulating and, consequently, more risk of mutations that create the new variants.

The Delta variant has a prevalence between 98% and 100% for eight consecutive weeks. The expert also said that an increase in the number of variants is expected, especially in countries with a low rate of vaccination.

16.20 hrs

Henrique Barros, an epidemiologist at the Institute of Public Health of the University of Porto (ISPUP), is now speaking about tests for covid-19.

“The first big decision we have to make is to make greater surveillance of asymptomatic people, wastewater and surfaces,” explained the expert, advocating greater screening “at the entrance” of different places, activities and events.

We carried out many more tests in 2021 than we did in a similar period in the previous year”, pointed out Henrique Barros, justifying this difference with the fact that this year there was greater mobility of people and more circumstances that caused the infection.

For Henriques Barros, rapid antigen tests are faster, cheaper and have a high specificity.

16.40 hrs

Carla Nunes, a professor at the National School of Public Health (ENSP), is now speaking about social perceptions about covid-19.

“The youngest since May have stood out from other age groups, with an increasing trend”, in relation to the frequency with which they feel agitated, anxious, down or sad due to the measures of the pandemic.

26% of respondents believe that the measures implemented by the Government to combat covid-19 are little or not adequate.

Between July 2020 and January 2021, 85% of people said they would wear the mask even if it was no longer mandatory.

Among the biggest concerns is the mental health of younger people;

Very high values ​​in relation to expectations about the end of restrictions;

New challenges under analysis regarding vaccination and flu.

16.52 hrs

Raquel Duarte, a pulmonologist at the Vila Nova de Gaia Hospital Center, speaks now about the proposed measures for this month.

The specialist recommends the promotion of voluntary and free testing and the maintenance of the obligation to present the digital certificate in circumstances of greater risk.

17.06 hrs

Vice Admiral Henrique Gouveia e Melo, coordinator of the task force on vaccination against covid-19, begins by stating that the country has reached 86% of first doses and 81.5% of complete vaccination.

“We have to continue, the war is not over yet. But at least, in my perception, the first battle is won”, says Gouveia e Melo.

Stressing that the booster of vaccines arrived in the country between June and August, the vice admiral welcomed the adhesion of young people to the vaccination plan even during vacations: almost 600,000 between 12 and 17 years old have already received a dose , while 329 young people are fully protected with two doses.

And he says he expects the country to reach 85% of full vaccination, starting at the end of September or at the latest in early October. “That’s a lot of good news,” he noted.

Gouveia and Melo also emphasize that the vaccines needed to guarantee the vaccination plan and about 1.1 million vaccines in reserve should arrive in the country in the fourth quarter, given the need for an eventual booster dose for the elderly.

Vaccination plan may extend until March 2022 if the third dose is administered to people over 65 years of age.

The President of the Assembly of the Republic, Ferro Rodrigues, began by saying that he was not going to talk about the deniers who insulted him last Saturday at a restaurant in Lisbon. But he left a warning: “There are issues that are of the rule of law and not merely legal”.

Praising the role of the Ministry of Health, the General Directorate of Health and the Vice-Admiral, Ferro said that the “vaccination process is a real success”, but asked experts for explanations why several elderly people continue to die from covid- 19 even with the two doses of the vaccine.

“We are doing very well, with a very good evolution, but we still have many vaccinated elderly people dying after the two vaccines. In order not to feed these denials, it was very good that there was an answer to this”, he appealed.

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Interview with José Manuel Duarte Costa President ANEPC

 

Welcome us to the sound of “1812 Overture” by Tchaikovsky, who celebrates “the defeat of Napoleon’s troops at the entrance of Moscow”, in the office he has occupied for year and a half as president of the National Emergency Authority and Civil Protection (ANEPC).

José Manuel Duarte Costa, 60 years old, is a military in front of a civil house. He joined the ANEPC in 2018 as national commander. First “it was strange and then he got in,” he admits. At the end of year two he rose to president of ANEPC.

How do you respond to criticism of being a military man in front of a civilian house?

Military are prepared to achieve objectives. When I arrived here, I drew a set of goals that included a new design of the operational structure in the field and decision support methodologies that were urgently needed. I gave this house leadership. I met with all the commanders of fire brigades in the first two months and I got out of office to know the people in the program.

Do you feel like a conciliator?

Those who have these responsibilities cannot be sectarian, factious or protagonist. We have to be bridge builders, reach consensus and open doors for discussion. The backbone of Civil Protection are the volunteer firefighters and I have established a good relationship with the League and with Commander Jaime Marta Soares.

You must be the first president of the ANEPC that is not criticized by the president of the League.

We discuss frankly and fairly and we try to find a compromise. The winners are the institutions and, above all, the Portuguese

What has changed since 2017 as among the failures identified by the Independent Technical Commission was the lack of coordination and lack of professionalism by the forces on the ground?

The reports that followed the 2017 fires identified a set of goals that had to be achieved to improve the system in terms of structural prevention, of surveillance and of combat. The latest report by the Observatory (OTI) does not make major reproofs to the civil protection authority, maybe because it was easier to make the changes here. What still needs to be done is at the prevention level, that is, the land registers, the forest management and land consolidation to endow the territory with a more resilient and attractive forest in terms of economic production.

Emphasize two or three things that have changed in these four years?

A Changed the SMS-based population alert system; the Safe Villages Safe People program was created, which makes these populations more resilient; we started to have thermal imaging of the theatre of operations and a whole technology to support the decision of who is in the command of operations.

Q Are the SIRESP failures over?

There was a lot of work from ANEPC with SIRESP, SA to solve the problems. SIRESP has been a key tool for the geolocation. The capacity of the network with broadband and connection to satellite was doubled, and generators were used for the case of antenna current failures and more mobile antennas were acquired.

How do you assess this year’s fires?

We had half of the occurrences and about 65% less burned area compared to the last ten years. And if we take 2017 out of these numbers, we have 56% less burned area. We reduced the ignitions by about 50% but we still have a high number: from 1 of January to August 31 we had about seven thousand occurrences and we managed to stop 98% of the fires almost at the start. There were 140 fires left with the potential to transform themselves into large fires…

Two of these were those of Castro Marim and Monchique. What is the reason for having larger fires in the Algarve?

It has to do with the weather conditions and the type of vegetation very dry and solid in the Algarve, with the capacity to release very high energy. In Castro Marim nearly six thousand hectares were burned, but it could have been 20 thousand hectares burned, so it’s good success rate despite being terrible for the environment and for the people who lost their homes and possessions.

Did the weather help?

A Yes, but weather cannot be a critical success factor. In 2019 and 2020 we had the same rates of performance and it was very complicated years, with higher temperatures and higher dryness rates in the territory and we were able to handle it, we and all the agents in the system. Today, fires release a much higher energy than they did before. I object to people thinking that, with fewer occurrences, we can have a smallest deployment capacity.

The Court of Auditors (Tribunal de Contas) and AGIF have talked about the need to present cost-benefit accounts about each fire operation. Why don’t these accounts show up?

We are working, in coordination with AGIF, on a good governance of the system so that, together with various entities, we can do this presentation of accounts. We know how much the device costs, the problem is knowing the cost of the burnt area and the cost of what we avoided being burned.

The investment made in prevention has been brought closer to what it is made in combat. But the combat is more visible, right?

I think it’s almost halfway through. I would even say that it should be 99% for prevention and 1% for combat. The solution to large fires is not in combat. Combat is more visible and produces security faster. But the effective safety of people, of the environment and animals we can only achieve with prevention, planning forestry, making the forest economically viable for the populations. That work is being done, but it takes time. While this hiatus unfolds of time we have to have a combat system that can fill the gaps that prevention has.

The lack of professionalism of firefighters is also criticized. Is that changing?

A .The national school of firefighters is extremely professional. Portugal sets a great example to other countries in the Mediterranean basin with this array of volunteer firefighters, an unshakable force for civil protection. And we have a special force of very specialized firefighters who work as the regime’s protection guard.

We are a country vulnerable to extreme events aggravated by the climate crisis, such as floods, rising sea water levels, storms. Are we prepared to face them? What are you afraid of?

I fear everything I can’t control. And there’s a lot that I can’t control. But we have teams prepared to act to several occurrences. For example, in the floods from Mondego we were able to predict the risk areas and we articulate with the municipalities and with the Portuguese Environment Agency to evacuate populations from the flood areas and control discharges from the dams and the breakage of dikes to contain the avalanche of water. And there was zero casualties.

Q Would we be prepared for an event like the torrential rains that devastated Germany?

Nobody is prepared for extreme events. The work that the Germany had done was not enough and now they are reviewing their protocols. We are preparing ourselves for any situation that may occur.

If an earthquake like the one in 1755 happened tomorrow we would be prepared?

An earthquake that occurs in the same location and with the same intensity as that of 1755 takes ten minutes to reach Lisbon, and the body of water arrives in 30 minutes. You can’t evacuate two millions of people in ten minutes. There are emergency plans to evacuate populations from the Baixa Pombalina (downtown Lisbon) to higher locations in Lisbon. For much well prepared as we were, an earthquake like the one in 1755 would be too complicated.

 

 

 

 

 

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Vice Admiral prepares for completion of mission and record of “lessons learned” for the future

 

Seven months after taking over the coordination of the task force for vaccination against covid-19, Vice Admiral Henrique Gouveia e Melo is preparing to hand over the key to one of the biggest emergency operations ever – a massive vaccination of the Portuguese population in a time record.

His leadership style, his camouflage, the simple words he used to explain complex issues were the most effective response to the mistrust that persisted for too long, when the Portuguese witnessed the start of a confused vaccination process and where abuses and favours began to spread.

Mission accomplished, Gouveia e Melo will leave the “lessons learned” for future memory and deliver to the Ministry of Health a guide of all the steps that were taken, the organization, priorities and their own impressions.

According to the official source of the task force, it is still the intention of this team to put a text on Wikipedia when the mission ends.

But this indisputable success – measurable, for example, by the fact that 70% of the population was vaccinated before the expected date and that it placed Portugal at the top of the countries with the most vaccinated people (the task force’s forecast estimates that between the 3rd and the 4th week of September reaches 85% of the population fully vaccinated) – was it due to just one person?

A magnetic field

Does the “script” you intend to leave serve for other public bodies? Is this leadership style replicable? What is the secret of this leadership’s success? And what did the vice admiral himself learn; a career military man who had never led a civilian operation?

On the phone in the car, returning from a visit to the vaccination centre in Guarda, last Wednesday, Gouveia e Melo answers the last question: “I learned to work in a less hierarchical system, in which the negotiation process is the essence, which usually doesn’t happen in the military. I learned to negotiate until exhaustion because that negotiation is the glue of the entire operation. I negotiated and discussed ideas until there was almost group consensus. From then on, things work as one magnetic field and all the particles go in that direction. I used this expression a lot of magnetic field – which orients the system’s particles in the same direction and you don’t even need to give orders.”

The task force , it should be remembered, has the mission of coordinating and articulating the various government departments involved in the preparation and execution of the strategic planning of the vaccination process, in its logistical, executive and communication aspects.

It was necessary to speak frequently with an extensive list of entities – municipalities, the five Regional Health Administrations (ARS), the General Directorate of Health (DGS), INFARMED (National Authority for Medicines and Health Products), the Service of Use Common of Hospitals (SUCH), the National Emergency and Civil Protection Authority, the Central Administration of the Health System, the National Institute of Health Doctor Ricardo Jorge, the SPMS (Shared Services of the Ministry of Health), the GNR and the PSP.

Gouveia e Melo worked as a kind of catalyst that united everyone with the ultimate goal of obtaining the desired results, motivating each one to assume their responsibilities. “From the beginning I said that I wanted the accountability of the actors. Each one has to feel involved, has to realize that it counts for the whole, for good and for bad. An accountable actor is much more active. This is the most important key “, points out.

Tight control of rules

When he took office in February he was faced with a discredited system and his priorities were to make the immunization plan credible – reinforcing the structure of planning and control of the entire process.

The General Staff of the task force was joined by elite military personnel (mathematicians, doctors, analysts, strategic experts) from the Army, the Air Force and the Navy, just over three dozen, and followed the three objectives defined by the vice-admiral: save lives (age criteria became the system default); resilience of the State (vaccination of professionals, such as police, military (about 10% of the population); liberating the economy.

Throughout the process, there was an exhaustive control of the execution of the guidelines, through mechanisms of permanent verification of the results of the process. It could not be otherwise, for example, the order to close the Porto flare – failures were identified due to non-compliance with pre-defined rules and it could never be reopened without everything being clarified.

The task force coordinator recognizes that this model “may be replicated in extreme cases”, but “hardly in normal situations”.

Even so, he stresses, “there are things that have been done that can be integrated into institutions, such as having reliable indicators of reality that allow for informed decisions, facing problems in an agnostic way. There are political goals, but then there are concrete problems that they demand decisions and results, they are not about ideologies, they are technical issues. The objectives are defined by the policy, but then they must be competent people to do it and not mix the two.”

The material inheritance for the National Health Service (SNS) – and also for other public entities, so wish – of these seven months of a task force against the clock is an unprecedented gift.

“All the information systems we created will become available, the NHS database has been updated and revised, and everything is more structured. Centralized solutions were developed that ended the entropy between the location (health centers) and the central. The Open House model with password can be replicated for all public administration services. The traffic lights system also allows people to see if there are many or few people before going to any service. All these solutions that we have created are independent of the databases and can be used by any service. In the case of SUCH, it had a total upgrade, updated, thought in terms of economy of scale, and selected the best routes. It is a new service that is capable of being a great agent of the State for all public hospitals”, guarantees Gouveia e Melo, giving some examples.

Leader profile x-ray

The leadership of this submariner who emerged into the spotlight has been, moreover, watched with attention by some of the greatest Portuguese experts in behavioural and leadership in organizations.

Confidence, genuineness, discipline, communication skills are some of the key words that characterize it. But they stress that leadership is not a person, but a process to which various circumstances contribute.

The vice admiral had a very clear objective to fulfil and that helped. His technical competence, mission orientation, very typical of the military and his great communication skills were decisive – the option for the camouflage itself was an element of strategic communication, which meant: while we’re at war, this is what I’m going to wear!”, asserts Miguel Pina e Cunha, director of the Leadership for Impact Knowledge Centre at the School of Business and Economics (SBE) at Universidad Nova.

 

 

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The performance of firefighters in the Algarve Castro Marim fire  questioned by some affected residents

 

The role of firefighters in the Castro Marim fire, which broke out on August 16, is questioned by some populations, but the Civil Protection guarantees that the plan prepared allowed it to be controlled even with adverse weather conditions.

Inhabitants of Cortelha, Pisa of Barro de Cima or Pego dos Negros in the municipality of Casto Marim, in the Algarve, complain to Lusa that they were not supported by the firefighters, either because they did not respond to direct appeals or because they showed up too late.

Manuel Pereira, accuses the firefighters of “little or nothing having done” in Cortelha and claims that there were 12 fire engines in a square “just over 100 meters away” and “let this house burn”, he told Lusa on the day the fire was reported to have been extinguished as it pointed towards the dwelling.

“They scored zero and I was here at the time. They were lying in the cars. Everything was on fire, taken by the flames”, he advanced, referring that they replied that “they had no order to go out”.

In Pisa, Barro de Cima and Pego do Negros are accused of not having appeared or having only done so “hours after the fire had passed”, as an inhabitant revealed to Lusa.

“We called the fire department and nobody showed up, the fire arrived at eight in the evening and the first [fire brigade] car at one in the morning. They were standing down there and did nothing. The guys asked for help and they said they had no order to put out the fire”, says Ricardo Neves.

Contacted by Lusa, the Regional Commander of the Algarve of the National Emergency and Civil Protection Authority says he does not comment on specific cases he does not know about, but accepts the criticisms and requests that they be sent to him so that they can “analyse and find out why people weren’t there”.

Vítor Vaz Pinto classifies fire-fighting as “exceptional”, since it was controlled without a window of opportunity “from a meteorological point of view” and the effort was “all directed to safeguarding “people, their property and the environment”.

“I regret the loss that people have had, the work of a lifetime, sometimes generations, that they lose from one moment to the next, but they have to realize that it is not possible to have a firefighter next to every tree, a GNR soldier next to each house and a helicopter in each parish”, he assumes.

The person in charge also wanted to clarify that, “contrary to what was said”, when the fire was considered to be under control, in the middle of the morning of the 16th, no means were withdrawn, but rather “differentiated means were projected”.

“Before there was reactivation, it was when heavy air means came out”, he emphasizes.

Explaining that a fire is considered dominated when “its progression is stopped”, he adds that this does not mean that there cannot be reactivations, as in this case, where there were “six reactivations”.

“Five were promptly defeated by the means that were in place and the sixth one was not possible because, when it occurs, it is out of combat capacity and it coincided at a time when there were no air resources in the theatre of operations to stop its progression”, sustains.

The commander also clarifies that the strategy to fight this fire was to “stop the progression of the fire head” as soon as there was a physical window on the ground that would give “security to the means and resources to be able to act”.

At the same time, they sought to “support the two flanks with 15 kilometres each, because otherwise the fire would reach 29,000 hectares”, he warns.

It is then up to each level – strategic, tactical and manoeuvre – to implement this plan on the ground, fulfilling the mission entrusted to it “in the way it sees fit”.

“People sometimes think that the Relief Operations Commander is the one who gives direct orders to the firefighter to open or close the hose, that’s not what happens,” he concludes.

The fire broke out at 01:05 on the 16th of August, was considered to be under control at 10:20, but it ended up reactivating around 16:00 and was only re-suppressed one day later, in the afternoon of the 17th.

According to the Copernicus Emergency Management Service of the European Union (EU), the fire caused a total of 5,957 hectares of burnt area (2,774 hectares of agricultural areas) in the municipalities of Castro Marim, Vila Real de Santo António and Tavira, in the Algarve, with the autarchies carrying out a full survey of the damages.

(Source: Postal do Algarve)

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Covid-19 Pandemic reduced birth rates especially in Portugal, Hungary, Italy and Spain

Newsroom, 31 Aug 2021 (Lusa) – The pandemic has been accompanied by a significant drop in gross birth rates in high-income countries, with particularly steep declines in southern Europe: Italy (-9.1%), Spain (-8 .4%) and Portugal (-6.6%).

This is the main conclusion of a study conducted by the Bocconi University of Italy and published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, using numerical models and analyzing data from 22 countries.

To better assess the effect of this disease, the study authors collected monthly data from January 2016 to March 2021 from a total of 22 high-income countries.

The pandemic aggravated the declining birth rates in rich countries, with Italy seeing the sharpest decline in 2020. There were 16,000 fewer births and the country saw its birth rate reduce by 9.1%, according to a study of the Bocconi University of Milan published in PNAS magazine.

The study covered 22 countries (including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, USA, Germany, France, Spain, Hungary, Iceland, Israel).

“Countries like Norway, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, where there is more generous welfare and individuals are less afraid of employment and income, there has been no decline in births,” study author Letizia Mencarini told Ansa news agency.

“Countries like Italy, Portugal and the USA, on the other hand, have had more repercussions due to the economic and employment uncertainties linked to the pandemic” she added. According to Mencarini, the pandemic further exacerbated the socio-economic inequalities especially among the youngest, who are more likely to postpone starting a family.

According to the models of the study, “which take into account the fertility trends already underway in the various countries (caused for example by a reduction in potential mothers), the most significant falls in births occurred in Italy (- 9.1% of born compared to 2019), Hungary (- 8.5%), Spain (- 8.4%), Portugal (- 6.6%)” Mencarini said.

For Italy, the months with the fewest births were December 2020 (3,500 fewer births compared to December 2019) and January 2021 (5,000 fewer births), with a decline in conception linked to the first pandemic wave.

While the average drop in births in the other months of 2020 compared to the same month in 2019 was 3%, in December it was 21%, and the same in January 2021.

Pandemics are a key driver of changes in human populations, affecting both mortality and birth rates.

The biggest pandemic of the last century, the so-called Spanish flu (1918-1919), caused birth rates in the United States to drop from 23 per 1,000 population in 1918 to 20 per 1,000 in 1919 (-13%).

Comparable effects were observed in countries such as the UK, India, Japan and Norway.

Preliminary data now suggest that the covid-19 pandemic has lowered the birth rate in high-income countries.

Furthermore, Belgium, Austria and Singapore also showed a significant decline in gross birth rates, according to this analysis.

However, the authors stress that the available data only provide information about the first wave and therefore “only give an idea of ​​the global decline during the pandemic”.

The data provide information on various phases of the first wave and indicate that in some countries, such as France and Spain, a recovery in birth rates was observed in March 2021 compared to June 2020.

For these countries, the month of June 2020 marked the point at which the first wave of the pandemic diminished, thus possibly reflecting a reversal.

According to the authors, the results reveal the impact of the pandemic on population dynamics and may have political implications for childcare, housing and the labour market.