The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Augusto Santos Silva, today admitted Government responsibilities in the worsening of the covid-19 pandemic in Portugal, in January, for the relaxation of measures at Christmas.
In an interview with the program Connect the World with Becky Anderson, from CNN Internacional, Santos Silva said he believed the strain of the new coronavirus initially detected in the United Kingdom was the main factor behind the peak new cases of contagion in Portugal in January.
However, the head of Portuguese diplomacy recognized that the relaxation measures combating the pandemic at Christmas may also have contributed to the serious health crisis in Portugal.
When the journalist asked Santos Silva if the easing of containment measures at Christmas and New Year were behind the peak of contagions and deaths in January, the minister corrected it and recalled that the easing of restrictions only happened during the period christmas, “When people were able to visit their family”.
Santos Silva attributed the worsening of the pandemic situation to the appearance in Portugal of the new strain initially detected in the United Kingdom, which “represents about half of the new cases” in the territory, more than to the relaxation of the measures.
“At the time, we thought there were conditions to facilitate. But, in fact, we believe that the new variant of the United Kingdom was the main reason ”, added Santos Silva.
Asked whether, with that answer, the Portuguese Foreign Minister was rejecting any responsibility for any “mistakes made” by his government, Santos Silva clarified that he was not blaming himself.
“Of course, the Government takes responsibility”, said Santos Silva, referring to the easing of rules at Christmas time.
The head of Portuguese diplomacy also admitted the “Devastating impact” of the pandemic in the Portuguese economy, mainly because the health crisis is “particularly affecting the tourism and aviation sectors”.
“In industry and agriculture, things are going well,” said Santos Silva, showing confidence that the Portuguese economy can recover later this year, despite knowing the difficulties facing Portuguese entrepreneurs.
“I’m an optimist, but a realist”, said Santos Silva.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs also acknowledged that the vaccination plan in Portugal is delayed, as in the rest of Europe, saying that only 4% of the population has already been vaccinated.
“We maintain the intention to have 70% of the adult population vaccinated by September ”, explained Santos Silva, attributing responsibility for the current delays to the lack of supply of vaccines by pharmaceutical companies.
“THE vaccine supply falls far short than was contracted out ”by the European Union, said Santos Silva, who now also has responsibilities in this process, under the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the European Union.
After seeing images from a journalistic piece about the difficulties of Portuguese hospitals during the critical period of January, Augusto Santos Silva said that the health system in Portugal was subject to “enormous pressure”, but added that “it never collapsed” .
The head of Portuguese diplomacy said that the pandemic numbers are now much better, as a result of the confinement the country has been subjected to since late January, but said the containment measures will have to extend “Probably, even after Easter”.
Santos Silva also said that Portugal is one of the countries in the world to carry out more tests for the new coronavirus and that it has a very tight policy to control the spread of the pandemic, namely by closing borders.