Release from the PCP Press Office

About the evolution of COVID-19 and the measures announced by the Government

1. Given the evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak, PCP considers the implementation of a set of preventive measures to be of the utmost importance, bur reaffirms the rejection of alarmism that cause a climate of agitation and disproportionate fear.

The current situation in Portugal demands that we all follow the set of guidelines issued by the public health authority, without fueling speculative reports or adopting measures on the sidelines of those defined by the competent authorities.

2. Yesterday, the Council of Ministers adopted a set of measures to address several aspects concerning the country. These measures of immediate response are far from answering the range of needs that will no doubt arise, and that, in themselves, raise contradictions, through exploitation of the situation in terms that have nothing to do with fighting the epidemic, or shortcomings that must be met.

The PCP draws attention to contents that can be exploited employers and economic groups to attack workers’ rights, as is already the case with the indiscriminate and arbitrary use of Lay-Offs and the multiplication of violations of union rights and freedoms, with consequences for the reduction of workers´ wages and incomes and for social security revenues. PCP reiterates the need to find answers that ensure the full wages and remunerations for workers, including those who are self-employed and those prevented from working, either by determination of the competent authorities or having to provide support for their families, namely because of school shutdowns. PCP also warns against the risk of widespread dismissal of precarious workers.

Among the decisions taken by the Council of Ministers, of paramount importance is the closure of educational establishments, which although explainable and understandable given the actual circumstances, it is not without contradictions – having repercussions on over 700,000 households at the family, social and economic level - which must be safeguarded.

In a framework of declining economic activity in some sectors, deciding at this point to cut wages (and what an expected cut by a third means for many workers), in addition to the intrinsic loss of purchasing power, will result in the tightening of the domestic market, conducive to a recession that must prevented. Therefore, ensuring full-pay and the valorization of the work and of the workers is essential, to guarantee their rights and living standards, as well as contributing to slow-down recessional trends and promote economic development.

Bearing in mind the current circumstances, now more than ever, there is a need for measures to increase public investment and support and stimulate production, essential to cushion economic effects in various sectors. As for the economic activity, and given the real adverse impacts, one need consider, among others, measures such as the creation of properly regulated lines of support specifically aimed at small and medium size companies, and not widespread, indiscriminate support programs that might lead to millions of euros of public money being misused towards the accumulation of profit.

3. The current situation raises the need for a significant investment in the National Health Service, one of PCP’s long-standing demands, for financial, technical and human resources, which cannot be subordinate to a budgetary logic obsessed with deficit targets and budget surplus.

In fact, the conditions to face the outbreak, and especially to tackle successfully many of the serious consequences, are decided by the responsiveness and resources made available. As is becoming clear in several European countries, aside from the COVID-19 epidemiological potential, there is a noteworthy and serious inadequacy in the clinical response to address the medical needs the acute cases require.

It is thus crucially important to reinforce the number of professionals, speeding up the recruitment process for the necessary clinical response and widening the diagnostic means and treatment, as well as reinforcing equipment and facilities, which are clearly insufficient, to provide the required responsiveness to treating COVID-19 associated pathologies. It must be remembered that in 15 years there was a decrease of over 4500 beds. Reestablishing this capacity must be a priority aim.

At the same time, PCP insists on the need to reinforce the public health infrastructures, which have been undervalued and undermined over the years and which is clearly essential to lead and coordinate interventions, namely fighting epidemic outbreaks.

The current situation demonstrates the need to reinforce the NHS to guarantee the right to health and answer the problems caused by the outbreak.