“I preferred to stay for Portugal, there is more security and discipline”

Many foreigners have their second home in Portugal, some even make this home their first. They chose Cascais, a village they did not leave this year due to the pandemic.

This article by Diário de Notícias carries interviews with those affected and their experience as well as with Safe Communities Portugal

Many foreigners have their second home in Portugal, in general they are retired Europeans who come here to spend great seasons during the year: English, French, Swedish, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, etc. Some even make the Portuguese residence the first, often visiting the countries of origin. The pandemic changed this reality and many chose to remain in the Portuguese home. Air transport restrictions and containment measures forced it, but there are those who remain because they feel more protected against the covid-19.

“This year, we chose not to travel, we stayed much longer in Portugal. Not only because travel is complicated but because we feel good and safe. The Portuguese government took good measures and applied them well, ” said DN Eva Wigren , 67 years old.

Eva is a Swede from Stockholm who settled in Cascais five years ago with her husband after retiring from her management position. He travelled to Stockholm five to six times a year. His case is identical to many other foreigners who bought a house in Portugal to enjoy the climate and the landscape, regular visitors to the Quinta da Marinha golf course, in Cascais.

The players focus on the swing to ensure the best shot in the Weekly League, the women’s tournament. One of the groups is made up of Swedes and a Japanese. Madalena Algotsson, 60, praises not only public authorities but the attitude of the population. “We are doing very well, we feel very safe. The Portuguese behave very well, they always wear the mask, they abide by the rules. In Sweden, the mask is not mandatory abroad and people do not follow the rules. One of the reasons why I stayed here is because of the good behavior of the Portuguese “. He also left Stockholm for Cascais three years ago.

The group is completed by Christel Molinder, a 63-year-old Swedish woman who was born in Gutenberg but spent her adult life in the capital, and Rié Kikuoka, 60, from Nagoya, Japan. Portuguese and avoided travel abroad. Circulation that had many limitations, too, due to the confinement measures imposed in their countries.

“We can only enter Japan with a negative test and, even so, we have to stay in a hotel for two weeks. We cannot take public transport, ” laments Rié. He feels safe at the health level, but not all residents of Portugal deserve praise. “There are many young people who don’t wear a mask,” he protests.

Christel trusts the Portuguese authorities. “Portugal is much better than Sweden, where there are fewer restrictions and, at the moment, there are many infected people. It was a good option to stay here.”

This Sunday’s data indicated 938 342 citizens in Sweden who tested positive for covid, which gives 92 442 per one million inhabitants, a proportion above the Portuguese (82 030). The country did not impose restrictions at the beginning of the pandemic, betting on group immunity, a strategy that health authorities have changed given the rapid progression of SARS-Cov-2 and its severity. Japan has a total of 546,425 cases – representing 4331 per million residents.

California from Europe

Eva and her friends met in Cascais, a village that has been nicknamed “California of Europe” and “Riviera”. There are 30 328 foreign citizens residing there, representing 14.2% of its population (213 608 people). According to the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF), 4912 Swedes live in Portugal and 16.3% in the municipality.

The group of players will wait calmly for their vaccination, before thinking about traveling again. Eva Wigren agrees with the priority setting of the national vaccination plan: “First, the categories that deal directly with patients with covid-19 were defined. However, they extended the range to older people, also with greater health problems” , justifies.

Jean Brunel came from France but from Paris two years ago, now 60. He has a home in Lisbon and spends a good deal of time on the Quinta da Marinha golf course, overlooking the Atlantic. “It has the best course in Portugal [18 holes] and the second best in Europe”, he assures.

Jean Brunel has not been to Paris in the past year. “I preferred to stay in Portugal, I feel that there is more security and discipline. The measures that were implemented had results very quickly, the number of infected people has been decreasing regularly, which shows that people are respectful of the rules. I am always comparing the rules. numbers and, at the moment, the country is much better than other Europeans, particularly France. ”

Mehdi Benlahcen, the advisor to the French community in the country, is of the same opinion. “At the moment, the situation is more controlled in Portugal. There were two months in which it was very bad, especially in January, but the number of new cases started to drop and consistently. In France, the measures are very flexible and the decrease it has been slower, with ups and downs. “It stresses, however, that it is only at the end of the pandemic being controlled worldwide that it will be realized what was the best strategy to combat the progression of SARS-CoV-2.

“It also has to do with the variants. The British variant first arrived in Portugal than France and is now settling in French territory, which is why the number of new cases is increasing so rapidly. Between October and March, there was a partial confinement in France, which contained the new infections “, he explains.

The adviser saw the French significantly reduce travel, managing travel according to restrictions imposed by governments. “The French go to France when everything is closed in Portugal and return to Portugal when traffic restrictions in France are reduced. There were those who traveled after the summer to French territory and returned in October”, he explains.
Mehdi Benlahcen arrived in Portugal in 2008, is an economics professor at the French Lyceum Charles Lepierre. As an advisor to the French community, he traveled to Paris every month, which he reduced to three times last year.

“The great difficulty was the cancellation of flights and restrictions at the borders. Those arriving from France are forced to quarantine, which makes travel impossible, especially for those who are working.”

The counselor is more in touch with those who work than with those who emigrated at retirement age. Many of those who work here have the problems of the remaining inhabitants, namely the loss of income.

France is the fourth country in the world with more cases of covid-19 – 5.5 million (5 498 606), more than 30 thousand per day. Slightly above Portugal in the infected rate per million inhabitants: 84 079 . The SEF indicates 23 125 French people with a residence permit in Portugal, but Mehdi estimates that there are 50 thousand.

“They should be proud”

“Portugal is a wonderful country, the landscape, the weather, the people, the food. You should be proud of your country. It is very safe, it is wonderful.” The words are by Bengt Handersson, 65, who has a house in the center of Cascais and the boat moored in the marina, in front, and where he prefers to spend his days and many nights. He is from Stockholm and has lived in Portugal for seven years.

Tell us a story to justify your preference for the village. “I have a friend who is a sailor with more than 30 years of life at sea. The length he traveled at sea is as if he had traveled the world eight times. He arrived in Cascais and said:” It is one of the best places I have seen in my life “. ”

Bengt got to know Portugal on vacation trips, now he doesn’t exchange it for Sweden, where he goes very rarely, even before the pandemic. He lives here with his partner. The children, two boys, live in Switzerland and more often they go to Portugal. In the past year, the few visits abroad have been reduced to zero. “I ended up staying here. Especially because the situation is better in Portugal than in Sweden. I am always comparing the numbers of the two countries and I see that the reality here with regard to the covid-19 is better. I made the right choice “ he says.


British Community

The British are an important community in Cascais, and their presence is clearly visible, just look at the pubs that spread through the center of life. The Portuguese authorities register 2033 natives of the United Kingdom in the municipality, the largest among the citizens of the European Union, to which the country ceased to belong in 2020. Next are the Italians and the French (see table). There are 34,358 Britons and 25,408 Italians residing across the country.

“I am home”

Sitting at a table in front of the Crown Bar are two British and one Irish. They drink a glass of wine, which is the favorite drink of foreigners on these sides. The three have not traveled to the UK since the first cases of covid-19 emerged.

“I am at home and, with the pandemic, the best place to stay is at home “, Karen Beech replies very simply when we ask her why she stayed here. He is a native of London, a city he used to visit once or twice a year. He is 48 years old and has lived in Portugal for 28 years, that is, more years in Portuguese territory than in England. She owns O “Luain” s Irish Pub.

Your concern is to respect the rules to reduce the possibility of getting infected. The main complaints have to do with the difficulty in the movement of goods. “We imported some products from the United Kingdom, namely drinks, and now we can’t because of the covid-19”, he justifies.

She shares the table with Zoe, 33, who has lived in the village for nine years. He emigrated to marry a Portuguese, precisely the nickname Cascais. She is from Herefordshire, in the northwest of England. “I stayed here but it is not even because of the covid numbers in the United Kingdom, but because it is safer not to travel. In relation to new cases of the disease, it looks like a ping pong. The situation is bad in the United Kingdom and better in Portugal , then it’s the other way around. “

The United Kingdom has a total of 4 404 882 infected (64 610 per million inhabitants) and Italy 3 962 674 (65 619 per million). Both countries have a higher proportion of fatalities from covid-19 than Portugal, which is 1668 deaths per million inhabitants. The British proportion is 1977 per million and the French, 1668 .

In relation to vaccination against covid-19, the United Kingdom is far ahead compared to EU countries, namely for producing AstraZeneca. Half the population received at least one dose of the vaccine. That will not be what makes the three Britons return “We are confident that vaccination will accelerate in Portugal”, believes Zoe Cascais.

Derek Davis, 46, has been in Portugal for ten years, works at Karen’s pub. “I feel safe in Portugal. I’m not planning on traveling, only when I have the vaccine,” he says.

Safe Communities Portugal

David Thomas lives in the Algarve and, in 2012, he founded Safe Communities Portugal, establishing a direct link with the Portuguese authorities in crime prevention. The pandemic forced them to shift their focus from action to rules to combat the new disease, working with foreigners who live here, not only retired but also those who are active, as was the case when he arrived in Portugal. He is 70 years old.

” This year was very different due to the confinement. Some people ended up staying in Portugal all the time, others stayed in their countries because they were unable to travel. There was a lot of difficulty in traveling to the UK due to the lack of direct flights” , explains David Thomas.

As for the situation of the disease in both countries, Thomas believes that the balance is more positive for Portugal. “I speak on the basis of statistics. The number of infected people is decreasing, also the R (t) [transmissibility index]. In terms of hospitalizations, the decrease was in the order of 90%, the government reacted very well to a difficult situation . And, in Portugal, people behave better than in other countries. ”

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