String of ministers sacked from government // Portugal demands Covid-19 tests for passengers from China
Portuguese news in English on Sunday, January 8, 2023.
String of ministers sacked from government
The traditionally quiet week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve was a very busy one in Portugal. Four ministers were dismissed or stood aside in a matter of days, bringing the total number leaving the government in its first year of absolute majority to 11, Público reports. That’s more than in the first year of Costa’s previous minority governments and during the majority governments of Pedro Cavaco Silva and corruption-accused José Sócrates. President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa put the high number down to an increase in public scrutiny but political scientists have blamed fatigue and a lack of coordination and planning, Público reports.
New secretary of state quits 25 hours after taking office
The first minister to fall last week was treasury secretary, Alexandra Reis, fired by the Finance Minister after her €500,000 payout for leaving the airline TAP earlier in the year was made public, Público reports. Then came Infrastructure Minister Pedro Nuno Santos, the mooted successor as PS (Socialist Party) leader, once it was revealed he knew about the agreement between Reis and TAP, Público reports. His two secretaries of state automatically followed suit, although one of them had already resigned. Returning from holidays this week, Prime Minister António Costa guaranteed “continuity” and “stability” in his government, Público reports. Luís Montenegro, leader of main opposition party PSD (Social Democratic Party) accused Costa of losing his “recruitment capacity” and Finance Minister Fernando Medina of losing “his political authority”. Prosecutors are investigating the exit payment made by TAP, Lusa reports.
On Thursday, Secretary of State for Agriculture Carla Alves became the latest member of the government to fall, resigning after news broke she had several accounts frozen due to an investigation into her husband, Américo Pereira, Diário de Notícias reports. She’s the 13th member of the government to go in nine months.
Portuguese news in English, for estrangeiros is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Portugal demands COVID-19 tests for passengers from China
Passengers flying into Portugal from China must now provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test (PCR or rapid, taken no more than 48 hours earlier) before embarking, Público reports. Authorities have also started randomly testing passengers arriving from the country on arrival for genomic sequencing and will start testing wastewater from planes in the airport and planes coming from China. The moves follow several other western countries, where they’ve been defended as ways to keep on top of new variants and criticised as ineffective given the amount of coronavirus already circulating.
Covid-19 was responsible for 5.5 per cent of deaths in Portugal last year, almost as many as in 2020, Público reports. The figures from the Death Certificate Information System showed 124,731 people died last year, almost 500 fewer than in 2021, with 6815 attributed to Covid-19. Researcher Carlos Antunes said although the population was much more protected last year, there was a distinct lack of lockdowns and other restrictions compared to 2020. He said everything indicated there would not be a return to years with fewer than 120,000 deaths. Director-General of Health Graça Freitas, after being the face of the pandemic response for more than two years, will step down and retire in the first part of this year, Público reports.
Flooding in the centre of Porto, with heavy rain to return overnight. The yellow line was cut temporarily due to flooding in the São Bento metro station, along with several roads. The council is examining why the water flowed overground instead of the underground channels it is supposed to, noting the ongoing metro construction in the area. (Público)
President sends Euthanasia law to Constitutional Court again. After vetoing one earlier version of the law and sending another to the court, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said the law was important enough to need a preemptive constitutional review. (Público)
Lisbon Metro to expand until Loures and Odivelas. The new mostly above-ground light rail line will feature 19 stops and is due to be finished by the second half of 2026. (Diário de Notícias)
Companies made to earn "golden visas" liquidated after just a few years. Of the 22 businesses created, at least four were liquidated, three not making it to the minimum period demanded by the scheme. (Público)
On a lighter note
The Douro is this year’s European City of Wine, Público reports. Dozens of initiatives are planned to promote the region across Europe, from tourism and culture to heritage and, of course, wine. The Intermunicipal Community of the Douro described the designation as “one of the most important in the region’s history”.