Currently, it’s possible to count Portugal down, but not out. Aggressive testing and a much-lauded response to the containment of infection have prevented an ‘avalanche’ of critical virus cases, as reported in a study recently released by Portugal’s Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública. Fortunately, thanks to an early lockdown, Portugal was able to avoid experiencing infection numbers similar to Spain and Italy.
However, Portugal is not out of hot water yet. As of May 29, 2020, it has been reported that infection rates in Lisbon have spiked, leading to a delay in re-opening large commercial centres in the capital. In some cases, a laissez-faire approach to social distancing and mask usage contributes to this. Specific reporting shows that, unfortunately, an increasing number of new infections are arising in ‘poorer’ neighbourhoods. While access to education concerning proper prevention methods is peppered throughout the city, it remains difficult to ensure those methods are followed.
Interestingly enough, it seems as though the Portuguese are increasingly becoming more concerned with the economic consequences of COVID-19 more than the actual virus itself. This is certainly in response to the dismal tourism numbers the country faced in April 2020. While European leaders overall are scrambling to determine paths forward to save the European summer holiday season, things are looking increasingly complicated throughout the continent. In fact, there are no simple solutions in sight.
Looking toward the near future, June 19, 2020 will prove an important day in economic news, as both the European Council will decide the extent of stimulus to EU countries (Portugal may stand to receive €26 billion), and Portugal itself will be debating the Supplementary Budget 2020, a measure that Prime Minister António Costa has labelled a “programme of social and economic emergency”. The proposed budget’s focus would be primarily to protect jobs and ‘incentivize public and private investment’.
Like many other countries, Portugal continues to stand on the precipice of financial disaster. How the government and people of Portugal handle the challenge remains to be seen; hopefully all is not lost.