The fight against the Covid-19 pandemic “is yet to last for many long months, because, until we reach the collective immunization of society, we will not overcome the pandemic”, said Prime Minister António Costa, adding that this immunization “only it will be reached when 60 to 70% of the population is immunized, or because, unfortunately, it has been infected, or because it has been vaccinated”.
The Prime Minister, who answered questions from deputies in the Assembly of the Republic, said that, at present, “we are living in a most sad moment, of greatest pain and suffering”.
António Costa reiterated that the fight against the pandemic “is a marathon and a very hard marathon”, despite the hope created by the vaccine. “For many months that the vaccination process takes, there is a way to reach the end of the tunnel”. There are “thousands of health professionals who have already taken their second dose and are already definitely vaccinated”, he said.
Capacity is not unlimited
At the same time, it is necessary to “continue to increase the response capacity of the National Health Service”, which “has been able to respond to the moments of greatest need in a progressive way”, pointing out that “in mid-October, 1424 beds were affected by Covid at the end of November it had been extended to 3545 beds, today we have 5795 beds occupied with Covid patients and we still have the capacity for extension ».
The Prime Minister pointed to the case of hundreds of people who were abandoned in hospitals because they had nowhere to go, for whom “it was possible to find decent accommodation”, which “made us have these beds available today”.
Another example is the entry, “tomorrow, in operation of the field hospital of the Estádio Universitário de Lisboa” and of the Casa dos Atletas “to serve as a backup for care that does not require hospitalization”. Third example, is the «38 signed conventions, with beds made available by the social sector and also by the private sector».
“But we all know that the extension capacity is not unlimited”, because beds or fans are not enough – “which we almost doubled since March” -, “human resources are needed”, he said.
It is also necessary “to increase the prevention effort, which means: more tests, more screening, less delay in the identification and breaking of contagion chains”. If “it is important to increase the number of beds, it is more important to increase the number of crawlers that will allow us to speed up epidemiological investigations and testing”.
Keep the rules
However, “if everyone is not careful to protect their health and that of those around them, we will not be able to stop the pandemic”, he said, stressing that, in the previous waves, “the Portuguese have already demonstrated that they can”.
António Costa recalled that «the Portuguese were extraordinary in March, after the summer, when it was necessary to break the second wave and we managed to do it until Christmas. And these are the same Portuguese, despite the accumulated tiredness, the added difficulties, because there are more people who have lost jobs and income, who, I am sure, will mobilize to catch the third wave”.
Affirming that the Government fought, “with great national consensus, so that, at all costs, we avoid a new general confinement, because we are all aware of what the cost is”, reiterated that he will “always take the measures that in each moment justify themselves, with common sense and balance, doing everything necessary, but nothing more than necessary ».
So, for example, what the Council of Ministers did yesterday “was because of what we were seeing happening” – because when the takeaway was authorized, the appearance of improvised terraces was not authorized – “and that demanded an immediate response” .
Systematic testing in schools
António Costa announced that, starting with the extreme risk municipality, «tomorrow, we will start a systematic campaign of rapid tests, in all schools, to reinforce security».
The Government decided to “keep schools open because it knows the enormous social cost of closing them”, since “there is no distance learning, however good it is, that ensures the quality of classroom teaching”.
The Prime Minister said that the objective is “not to disturb, for the second consecutive school year, the education of new generations. Today we know with certainty that the closure of public schools, that the absence of face-to-face education aggravates inequalities and irreversibly impairs learning ».
“The easiest thing was to close the schools, because the cost of this decision is not immediate, unlike the cost of closing the trade, but it will be paid 10 or 20 years from now. We have 5400 public schools and only 13 are closed by outbreaks – and whenever there is an outbreak, the health authority will shut them down” he said, adding that “we have 1.14 million students in schools and we have 39,000 students confined”
It is also necessary to “fight the battle for the preservation of income, preventing poverty from increasing, inequalities from worsening, protecting jobs and businesses, and the unemployed, so that everyone feels that, however difficult this moment may be, they don’t we will leave no one behind, ”said António Costa.
The Prime Minister said that “the country will have lost, last year, about 15 billion euros of national wealth. Support for employment, business and the economy as a whole was 22 billion euros. Of course, it is not enough – when we are supporting 20% of billing losses, 80% is still missing – but it means an extraordinary mobilization of national resources to support as much as possible ».
The Portuguese should not have “illusions that we will leave the pandemic without wounds and scars”. But they must concentrate “that we are really going to get out of the pandemic, we are going to heal the wounds and assimilate the scars. This takes time, but we will make it, ”he said.