Posted: Sunday, October 3, 2021. 2:22 pm CST.
By Hugh O’Brien: Belizeans may know Portugal more for its famed footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, who along with Argentinian Lionel Messi, have been competing over the last decade or so for the Balon de Oro and other prestigious awards in European and International football circles. Football apart, Portugal is setting an example for its fellow European countries and the rest of the world by fully reopening this week after a year and a half of lockdown.
Located next to Spain in Europe, Portugal is set to join a handful of countries, including Denmark and Norway, that have given back residents their freedom after offering the best available COVID-19 protection (ie. vaccines) to their adult population. The vaccination campaign in Portugal has reached, even surpassed, its goals. Only a trickle of teenagers are entering vaccination sites leading the Chief Nurse at a vaccine center in the capital Lisbon to say “we have actually run out of people to vaccinate” (Source: The Washington Post).
In early 2021, a CNN news report claimed that Portugal had one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks on the planet with hospitals overflowing and scrambling to find additional space for sick patients. The country has lost over 18,000 people to the pandemic. However, the death rate is half the European Union average and nine times below that of the United States due to the high level of vaccination. By the end of September hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 were consistently low, despite a high number of daily cases still reported, leading the country to relax the remaining restrictions.
Life has almost returned to normal in Portugal with businesses open and tourism returning. The capital Lisbon is buzzing with activity and lots traffic. People are moving around freely and without masks, which only has to be worn in some indoor situations . This week, Prime Minister António Costa is moving the country along a path he calls “total freedom” by reopening nightclubs and lifting the mandatory 2 a.m. closing time for bars.
Portugal’s leaders cherish their experience with vaccines but are noting their progress with caution. The pandemic has suck over 18 months of the normal life from its residents, and while there is not a large group of unvaccinated people in the country, cases are still high and protection from the vaccine appears to wane, especially in older persons, after 6 months or more. Children 12 and under are also still not vaccinated and are awaiting the results of ongoing trials.
According to The Washington Post, Health Minister Marta Temido noted “we have achieved a good result, but it’s not the solution or miracle one would think”.
Some precautions therefore will remain in place. Mask-wearing indoors will still be mandatory in some indoor situations and digital health certificates showing the vaccination status of individuals, will continue to be necessary for travel and events with crowds.
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