ALGARSAFE’23 Group Presentation on “Risk Communication and Awareness” for
The part our team at Safe Communities Portugal played during Covid-19
Safe Communities Portugal activated its response to Covid-19 on 20th January 2020, just a few days after the Wuhan outbreak in China , before it reached Portugal
Our volunteer team of professionals, at Safe Communities Portugal, has been there since day one – our first post was on 20th January.
Following that our team further developed our capacity by creating a core response team: all of us having crisis management experience. This is supported by a volunteer group of around 12 people including former UK government health professionals, civil protection and cybersecurity specialists and an international lawyer, all providing input and support services.
Our daily work involved liaising with government and Tourism boards where necessary. We have made proposals to help the foreign community at national and local Algarve level; these being considered and implemented where appropriate. We liaise closely with various Embassies and in particular the British Embassy Consular team who are very supportive.
The focus point of the official information and advice in English is on the Coronavirus Covid-19 section on the SCP. We make regular Facebook posts with links to the site.
However, not everyone uses social media, so this article and our newsletter is to help those who do not. On the site we have over 30 pages dedicated to this subject
During 2020/21 Covid has placed a considerable challenge for our organisation. Due to the considerable demand for information and assistance from the international community here in Portugal, Safe Communities has acted under its framework as a Civil Protection Volunteer Association and has provided the following services:
To do this SCP has obtained the assistance of additional volunteers and I would like to thank everyone for the roles they have played. In particular Fernanda Goncalves and Mike Evans who together with myself have dealt with literally thousands of enquiries over the last year.
As a snapshot of the SCP work during Covid 19; from the beginning of March 2020 to 22nd July 2020 according to Facebook Insight, SCP’s total reach was 4,104,000 (an average of 28,500 per day. Our highest reach was 78,342 on 17th March; second highest 69,621, (16th May) and 62,859 (29th June).
Since the beginning of March to 22nd July the total number of comments made in respect of our posts over this period was 40,209 i.e. 279 per day. We estimate from daily samplings that we answered around 70 % of these making a total of 28.163 replied to by the team over this period. On average we answered around 29,000 Facebook comments and 1100 messages over this period as well as 700 emails
Over this period SCP produced over 50 newsletters; 100 media articles and participated in two blog interviews and around 45 radio broadcasts on KissFM radio, covering Covid-19. This has ensured vital communication to those who do not use social media.
Our work continued at this pace well into 2021. We estimate our volunteer team translated over 60 – 100 pieces of government legislation, around 40 DGS Covid-19 guides, travel advice, explaining these to many thousands of people who needed clarification and assistance.
Enquiries came from all over the world, from Australia, to USA, and from most countries in Europe. We therefore established pages in eight languages on our website to help.
It was not all just about figures, however, and understanding the pressures many people were under, we created a page on our website: Positive Messages This contains comments of “hope” and inspiration, selected from our Facebook page. Good to read on particular dark days or when people are feeling understandably low.
Our team not only had to research, understand sometimes complicated laws and measures, but also work in a way to help relieve pressure, from some who contacted SCP in the most difficult of circumstances, when most of our team were under pressure, working extremely long hours ourselves.
Apart from the questions we faced, the team were very grateful for the many compliments and words of encouragement we received: There is one that stands out”
Vicky from Monmouthshire on the Safe Communities Facebook page – “This page is fabulous. One of the reasons I am moving to Portugal is because of the information here.” “Truly, it has made such a difference, sitting in the UK, unable to get to Portugal, and now, we head off to start our new lives in mid- August”.
The team was operational from early in the morning to after mid-night and at one peak period regarding a late night change of travel law on a Sunday resulted in over one thousand enquiries in just two days.
In 2022 Safe Communities Portugal has been nominated under the Algarve Business Awards for its work during the Covid-19 pandemic. We have been judged a Semi-Finalist in the “Pride of Algarve Award” category. The finals will be held on 11th November 2022 to determine the winner.
Portugal declared a State of Emergency on 18th March 2020 and this was extended twice, finishing on 2nd May 2020. After a period of a Situation of Calamity, Portugal entered a new State of Emergency in November 2020, which was renewed every 15 days by the President of the Republic. This the decreased to a Situation of Contingency, the last period finishing in early 2022. There are no measures now in place except the wearing of face masks in hospitals and care homes. The measure to wear masks on public transport was removed in August 2022.
On 29 December 2019 Chinese authorities identified a cluster of similar cases of pneumonia in the city of Wuhan in China. Wuhan is a city with 11 million inhabitants and capital of the Hubei Province.
These cases were soon determined to be caused by a novel coronavirus that was later named SARS-CoV-2.
Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that are common in humans and are responsible for up to 30% of common colds.
Two outbreaks of new diseases in recent history were also caused by coronaviruses – SARS in 2003 that resulted in around 1000 deaths and MERS in 2012 that resulted in 862 deaths.
The first cases of COVID-19 outside of China were identified on January 13 in Thailand and on January 16 in Japan. Since then COVID-19 has spread to many more countries – cases have been reported in all world regions.
On 30th January the new coronavirus was declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO) , as the outbreak continued to spread outside China.
On 11th February the WHO announced the official name of the coronavirus: “Covid-19“. It was the first decision made by the scientific community that is meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, to analyse and share information about the disease.