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Nursing

Amidst the height of the country’s fight against Covid-19, the Democratic Union of Nurses in Portugal Sindepor went on a five-day ‘wake-up call’ strike last week, during which only minimum services were provided.

Carlos Ramalho, the president of the syndicate, declared that the walkout was necessary as the nurses are exhausted and their situation in the SNS (National Health Service) deteriorating.

‘We are talking about a process of many years in which the problems have not been resolved by the Government. At this point, the work overload is such that nurses can’t take anymore’.

The union leader further stresses that Portugal is one of the OECD countries with the least number of nurses per 1,000 inhabitants. 

At the same time, the Ordem dos Enfermeiros (Order of Nurses) expressed concern about the recruitment of Portuguese nurses in Europe, revealing that hunting for nurses has intensified from countries such as Spain, the UK and the Netherlands.

These countries are offering lucrative annual contracts for hospitals and nursing homes. From Spain, there have been contracts with offers of 30,000 euros per year, almost double the salary in Portugal. The Netherlands on the other hand is providing – in addition to an ample salary – accommodation, transport and travel.

The OE recalls that ‘although the recognition of the nurses is unanimous, there is no incentive nor decent pay’. Last year more than 4,000 nurses asked the order for a declaration for emigration purposes, a record number that tripled compared to 2017 and represents an increase of 68% compared to 2018.

‘Given the severe situation we are going through – after nine months into the pandemic – it is imperative that the way nurses are hired as well as their working conditions must be improved. There are almost 20,000 nurses abroad and the Government should be concerned with creating means for them to return’, declared OE’s chairwoman Ana Rita Cavaco.

‘We just can’t afford to export more nurses’.

Keep fit                Fique saudável                                 (pic Público/Sapo)









Environment

Climate change in Portugal varies from wildfires to storms

Although the world’s C02 emissions are expected to fall by 8% this year – as the coronavirus pandemic shuts down much of the global economy.- the reduced emissions are very unlikely to have a serious impact on the global levels of carbon dioxide.


The target laid out in the Paris agreement would require at least similar reductions every year in the decades to come.

Climate change in Portugal varies from wildfires to storms. On September 13 the country suffered the largest forest fire of the year whilst only one week later sub-cyclone Alpha ravaged the central districts of Leiria and Coimbra.


Global warming is going to bring more tropical cyclones moving north and eastward from the Atlantic ocean.

Three years ago strong winds and heat from passing hurricane Ophelia fanned more than 150 wildfires, claiming the lives of at least 45 citizens. And last year the Azores were hit by Lorenzo, the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Central North Atlantic, with winds blowing at 260 km/hour.

Although the pandemic decreases air pollution and waste production – the last mainly as a result of the collapsing tourism industry –these changes are most likely temporarily, as the rapid rebound in air pollution and coal consumption to pre-Covid levels across China shows.

Moreover, the increase of plastic disposables during the pandemic– like masks, gloves, gowns, face shields and take-away packages – poses a serious threat to the environment, in particular to the oceans. Every year 230,000 tons of plastic are dumped into the Mediterranean. Various environmental NGO’s, therefore, argue not to use disposable but reusable masks by those who don’t belong to a risk group.

Besides the damage done by the pandemic to the environment, long-term exposure to atmospheric pollution –already linked to heart/lung damage and premature death – may have increased Portugal’s risk of death from Covid by 11%, putting new emphasis on why the disease appears to be most prevalent in metropolitan areas.

Keep distance      Stay healthy                  (pic público/sapo)










Homeless

The street is not a choice – we want houses’

Once upon a pre-Covid time, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa promised that he would personally see to it, that all 400 homeless in the capital got off the street in 2023. Since the new virus hijacked the country’s economy very little has changed. In fact, there are a lot more new faces on the street.

On the 15th of June tens of homeless people gathered before Parliament to express their displeasure. Sara – one of the protesters – has no job and feels discriminated against by the government. ‘I am not a number, I am a person. We have a right to housing!’

Many homeless people, don’t believe in shelters as they lump too many problematic individuals together under one roof.
The best solution would be to discuss with the homeless the needs of each and every one.

‘The government give us a minimum income of 189 euros per month but that is not nearly enough to rent a room.
When the landlords know we are homeless, they ask a six months deposit for a room.
There are a lot of abandoned houses in Lisbon. Why can’t they be used to rehouse the homeless?’

Manuel Grilo – Lisbon’s councillor for Education and Social Rights – declared that since the beginning of the pandemic 500 homeless people have been attended in four emergency centres created by the municipality.

47 of them have been referred to the Housing First program, a project financed by the City Council in which people are integrated into individual housing and supported by professionals. The municipality hopes that by the end of the year a total of 380 people will be accommodated through this program.

According to Guerreiro – another homeless protester in front of Parliament – the councillor of the Left Bloc lives out of reality. ‘Until today, there is not one municipal house attributed to a homeless person!’

In order to judge the evolution of homeless cases ‘on the ground’, the President recently paid a visit to the Avenida AlmiranteReis, Cais do Sodré and Santa Apolonia in Lisbon.

‘It is sad to see that the new crisis means an increase in homelessness, especially among young people. Now saying that the 2023 goal will be met, would be a lie with over 100.000 unemployed in Portugal due to Covid’.

Stay healthy                 Fique saudável             (pic PtRes/Público/JEcon)






Praise

‘Bury the dead and feed the survivors’  (Marques de Pombal, 1755)

Le Figaro:                        ‘The Portuguese mystery’
Int Busin Times:             ‘Portugal stands tall in the midst of the chaos’
The Guardian:                 ‘Swift action kept Portugal’s coronavirus crisis in check’
Der Spiegel:                     ‘The Portuguese miracle’                                            
El País:                             ‘Portugal, the southern Swedes’ 
Euronews:                       ‘Why has Portugal not been as badly hit as Spain?’       
Politico:                            ‘How Portugal became Europe’s coronavirus exception’

Portugal’s successful battle against Covid-19 has come under international media spotlight and regarded by many as exemplary. With a quarter of the population of big brother Spain, Portugal has around one-tenth of the number of cases and a three times lower mortality rate.

There are a number of different theories for why the virus has caused so much less suffering than in neighbouring Spain.
The hardest to disprove of is: ‘Portugal has its pilgrimage site of Fátima.

With just 4.2 critical care beds per 100.000 people  – the lowest in the EU – and an underfunded public health service, the Portuguese people understood very clearly – after witnessing the horror in Madrid and Milan – that if they wanted to survive, they had to do more than others in pushing forward the number of new cases. Citizens started self-isolation and kept their children from school at the end of February, anticipating the government’s decision to a shutdown in March.

Self-discipline, more preparation time, swift implementation of measures, a geographical location at the edge of Europe, political stability and a bit of luck are probably the main reasons for the relatively mild outbreak in Portugal thus far.

Lisbon’s streets are left to joggers and cats, its glorious beaches cordoned off, the economy asphyxiated, border crossings to Spain sealed, schools and universities closed and more than half of the population leaving home only once a week or less for food, medication and exercise.

Nevertheless, the government prepares to gradually reopen services, businesses and commercial establishments with ‘masks on’, as the economy simply cannot afford to wait under lockdown until the coast is clear.
Schools might restart in early May on a trial basis and even go back into operation on May 13, the anniversary of the appearance of the Virgin Mary in Fátima. Se Deus quiser (Inshallah)!

Fique em casa                       Stay at home                (pic Observ, Público, Sapo)

 

 

Measures

We have to stop moving because this virus can’t move on its own.

All migrants, including asylum seekers with pending applications at immigration (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras), will be treated as permanent residents until at least July 1, granting them full access to the National Health Service, welfare benefits, bank accounts, work, and rental contracts during the corona outbreak.

The Council of Ministers explained that the decision was taken ‘to reduce the risks for public health’ when maintaining the current scheduling of appointments at the immigration office, both for the border agents and the migrants and asylum seekers.

The European Commissioner for Home Affairs praised the humane approach of the left-wing government and encouraged other European countries to follow Portugal’s example.
Last year 135,000 immigrants obtained residency. Brazilians and Ukrainians make up the majority, followed by west Africans, British and French.

Portugal declared the State of Emergency on March 19 and recently extended it to April 17 with tough penalties for anyone breaking quarantine.
Suspension of non-essential services happened when only 6 had died from the virus. In Italy, this did not happen before over 1,000 people had died.

Schools in Portugal even closed before any deaths were registered.
In Spain, this happened after 84 people had died. In Italy, it took 366 and in the UK 233 deaths before schools closed.

Portugal is doing comparatively well so far. But the authorities’ advice to stay at home and keep distance has to be maintained to prevent further suffering. Researchers at the Imperial College in London suggested that without these measures deaths in Portugal could reach 70,000.

With the peak of the virus predicted in May, it is becoming increasingly clear that quarantine measures in Portugal probably have to stay in force till the end of June.
All efforts will be wasted if social distancing measures are ended too rapidly.

To finish off with a quote of the famous Dutch footballer Johan Cruijff  ‘ every disadvantage has its advantage.’
The confinement of people at home and the consequent reduction in traffic circulation and economic activities has resulted in 80% less air pollution in Lisbon, a finding also registered in other major European cities.

Stay healthy                   Fique saudável                        (pic Reuters/Público)

 

 

Covid19

When the number of confirmed coronavirus cases surpassed the 1,000 mark – with six reported deaths – the Portuguese Government announced the State of Emergency on March 19.

Non-essential business and schools closed. People urged to leave their houses only for food, medicines and walking the dog. Remote working from home became the rule. Restaurants locked but allowed to sell take-aways or effect home deliveries. Cultural and leisure institutions shut down. Public services reduced to the ‘essential’. Public transports at reduced capacity. Anyone entering the country from abroad to be quarantined for 14 days.

Social distancing’ and ‘protecting the elderly’ have become keywords in the fight against the new virus – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
Other countries around the globe have taken similar preventive measures.

In view of the pandemic and to curb fake news, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has given the following advice:
– the new coronavirus can be transmitted in all kind of climates.
– neither cold or hot weather can kill the virus.
– all ages can be infected but the elderly are more vulnerable to severe illness.
– the virus cannot be transmitted through mosquitos.
– hand dryers, a hot bath, UV light, rinsing the nose with saline, eating garlic or taking antibiotics are not effective in killing or preventing infection.
– the best way to protect yourself is by social distancing and washing hands frequently.
– there is no medicine or vaccine available (yet).

The intention of prime minister Antonio Costa is not to close the country down – like in France – even though he has the constitutional support with this State of Emergency to do so. The government, however, will – given the developments in Spain and Italy where the death tolls are the worst in Europe – implement further restrictions if necessary.

Mantenha-se saudável          Stay healthy                (pic Lusa,Público,Reuters)