The Envy of Europe: Portugal’s Triumph in the Face of the Coronavirus Crisis

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Portugal is no longer Europe's Envy as it registers a sharp rise in Covid-19 new cases. Credit: File Image.

THE rest of Europe must hold some envy for the miraculous containment of the coronavirus in Portugal, especially since its neighbouring country, Spain has not experienced the same triumph when trying to lower the risk of transmission during the crisis.

Despite sharing the same peninsula, opposite sides have had vastly different experiences during the pandemic. With four times less than the population of Spain, in Portugal the figures of infected patients have reached 32,302 and 1,396 deaths. In other words, for every death Portugal has experienced, Spain has had five.

Looking at their crisis management model, which some have christened as the ‘Portuguese Miracle’ there is some clear indication of what the management of an epidemic should look like.

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Portuguese Medicla staff have agreed that their success has been a balanced outcome of good political management and the responsibility of the Portuguese residents have been critical factors.

“When the images from Italy were arriving, things were still not being taken seriously enough in Spain, however, Portugal did pay attention to what was happening there and took note of what their neighbours were beginning to experience. We were always more aware of the danger of contagion,” says Doctro Javier Gallego, who runs a Minimally Invasive Cardiothoracic Surgery Unit which operates from the north to the south of the country.

The Portuguese quarantined themselves within their homes even before Antonio Costa’s socialist government declared a State of Alarm, at a time in which there were only a hundred positive cases and no deaths – the Spanish did this with 4,209 cases and 120 registered deaths. “Here we have been able to go out for a walk with the family or to play sports, and still I do not know anyone who has been fined or who has gone out to run just because they were allowed to,” says Javier from Lisbon.

With no saturation in the ICU or ER, testing has also been a key factor to keeping the virus at bay in Portugal. “I think that here the medical staff have been well protected. I have not been on the front line with infected patients and even so they have tests carried out every fortnight,” explains the doctor, who is also the chair of a Spanish Health Network in Portugal.

Javier Gallego has been working in Portugal for almost two decades and his team pioneer in the realm of minimally invasive surgery techniques. Not so long ago the doctors did not know what they were going to find until they conducted surgery and examined the patient. Now, thanks to technology, professionals like him are able to operate on lung cancer patients with the patient awake and without even having to intubate it.


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