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)