Appointment-free vaccinations / New long COVID guidelines / Major train issues for arriving refugees
Portuguese news in English on Saturday, March 19, 2022.
By the numbers
A few big changes as the Directorate-General of Health has ditched the daily COVID-19 reports, so instead we get a handy weekly wrap up. Despite earlier talk of yet another wave on the way, there were fewer cases, deaths and hospitalisations this week than the previous seven days, Público reports. Deaths per million per fortnight is at 27.7, still above that figure of 20 authorities have pointed to as the measure of when to lift remaining restrictions. In total, there were 78464 cases for the week and 123 deaths, down 811 and 39 respectively. The majority of new cases are among teenagers and 91% of the population is fully vaccinated, with 60% having received a booster. Mathematician Óscar Felguiras told Público the country could reach the 20 deaths measure by next week.
NOTE: Sorry I didn’t send a newsletter last week. I had horrible gastro all week and just wasn’t up to it.
Appointment-free vaccinations as booking portal shuts
The online vaccine booking portal has been shut down. You can find addresses and opening hours for your closest vaccination centre here (in Portuguese) and turn up without a booking. Current restrictions, including the indoor mask mandate and the need for people without a booster to test negative before visiting nursing homes and other health establishments, remain in place with the state of alert extended to March 30, Público reports. In Lisbon, self-tests supervised by a nurse will available for residents and non-residents alike from 9am-1pm and 2pm-6pm weekdays in four locations: Cais do Sodré, Campo Pequeno, Parque das Nações and Martim Moniz, Público reports.
DGS defines guidelines for long COVID
Portuguese health authorities have set out some guidelines for the treatment of long COVID, which the World Health Organisation believes may affect about 10–20% of all symptomatic cases, Lusa reports. The guidelines are fairly broad and aimed at medical professionals but should hopefully help people suffering the condition get better treatment. The Directorate-General of Health highlights long-term fatigue, shortness of breath, changes in smell or taste, depression, anxiety and cognitive dysfunction as possible symptoms and recognises the functional impact these can have on quality of life. The main aim is early recognition of symptoms that could lead to serious complications or threats to the patient’s life or recovery. The guidelines were announced on Thursday after the Portuguese Association of Public Health Doctors called for a national strategy to treat the condition, Público reports.
Major train issues for arriving refugees
The closure of Lisbon’s only proper rail link with Madrid is having some pretty terrible consequences for Ukrainian refugees arriving in the country, Público reports. Having fled Russia’s unprovoked war on their homeland and crossed all of Europe, at least 30 refugees were left in Badajoz, on the Spanish side of the border, last Sunday, because they didn’t fit in the tiny train dedicated to crossing the border. Most of those who completed the three-hour journey to Entroncamento did so standing up. The train that makes the trip — ever since the Sud Expresso and Lusitânia Expresso were cancelled in March due to the pandemic — only has 94 tightly packed seats and few luggage spaces, and was never intended for such long trips. Combine this with the influx of refugees and normal weekend trips and you have problems, yet Comboios de Portugal (CP) has only added capacity on three days this month.
The government has created a central website, in English, Portuguese and Ukrainian, for everything Ukraine-related in Portugal, including offers to help. It’s called Portugal for Ukraine.
More refugees in three weeks than seven years
While the number of refugees choosing to make a new home in Portugal is tiny compared to 1.8 million arriving in Poland, it’s still significant. Público reports more than 13,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Portugal since the war began, more than the total number of refugees arriving over the past seven years. The influx makes Ukrainians the third most represented immigrant group in Portugal, behind Brazilians and Britons. They’ll have the right to €150 a month, free housing for up to 18 months if necessary and programs to help arrange work and other necessities, Secretary of State for Integration and Migration Cláudia Pereira told Público. She admitted there were currently only 2000 homes available for now but said the newly created Porta da Entrada program would be the government’s main response.
PM calls for cap on surging energy prices
After pretty much wall-to-wall bad news for Portugal’s economy, there are a couple of very minor bright spots this week. Prime Minister António Costa is going to Brussels, along with his Spanish, Italian and Greek counterparts, with a proposal for a cap on surging energy prices, Público reports. The proposed limit would be €180/MWh, below the €200 average price seen in recent days, and also apply to renewable energy. Spain is saying the same effect could be achieved with a simple limit on the price of gas-powered energy. With the price of oil dipping back below US$100 a barrel, petrol and diesel prices are expected to drop significantly next week, mostly on Monday, CNN Portugal reports. The drop is expected to erase about a third to a half of the massive recent price rises, so that could be between 10c and 15c for diesel and roughly 7c to 10c for petrol. And while most economists are predicting fairly significant economic pain here as a result of the war, it seems it could be worse. Economist Nils Redeker has published a study (Original study, in English) finding Portugal should be among the least disadvantaged in the European Union, thanks to its lack of energy intensive industry and limited trade with Russia, Público reports.
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Air particles eight times worse than health limit in Évora during dust storm. High concentrations can be a public health risk. (Público)
After two years, the flu is back. It’s infecting young people more. Experts expect a peak outside of the normal flu season. (Diário de Notícias)
No cases of bird flu registered in humans in Portugal. The Ricardo Jorge National Health Institute said outbreaks in animals had been controlled.
Law that granted Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich Portuguese citizenship to change. Will now require an “objective connection” to Portugal, after the Porto rabbi ultimately responsible for the decision was arrested amid investigations into suspected influence peddling, corruption and falsifications of documents.
On a lighter note
A Portuguese invention is helping people with limited hand strength to lift things as heavy as 40kg, Público reports. Start-up director Filipe Quinaz dreamed up the idea after losing a lot of muscle mass while recovering from a broken bone in his hand. It’s basically a system of sensors and artificial tendons controlled by a kind of wristband. The technology is ready to go but the manufacturing process hasn’t been industrialised yet, a process maker Nuada hopes can drop the price down from the current €3500.
Bonus lighter note:
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