Speech by João Oliveira in Assembly of the Republic

Portugal needs adequate public health measures and socioeconomically balanced

Portugal needs adequate public health measures and socioeconomically balanced

The State of Emergency and the lockdown are an exception, not a solution.

The extension of the current situation is unsustainable, not only due to the economic and social problems that emerge from it, namely employment-wise, but also due to the health conditions of the population. The situation in which more than one million households are living in, several of which in telework while their children are in distance learning or are under their full-time care, is unsustainable.

The restrictive measures and the lockdown have deep and very negative consequences to the general health conditions of the Portuguese population, including in terms of mental health, especially among the children and among the youth, but also among the elderly. It has impacts on employment destruction, wage and income losses for households, it jeopardizes the living conditions, and makes the access to goods and services harder.

It is not acceptable to underrate those consequences, as well as to convey the idea that Portugal can sustain the State of Emergency and the lockdown indefinitely. Therefore, we insist: the State of Emergency and the lockdown are an exception, not the solution.

Portugal needs to find an effective response to stop the epidemic immediately, and to prevent its future resurgence, by adopting adequate public health measures, but measures which are also be balanced in terms of their social and economic impacts.

The great priorities to face the current situation and the challenges we have ahead are: to move forward with the vaccination, increase tracking and testing, increase the number of NHS professionals, from one side; to protect the workers who are still onsite, protect jobs, support the unemployed and the SMEs and put in place measures that allow the activities which are now closed, to open as soon as possibly under safety conditions – namely schools, cultural and sport activities, restaurants and shops -, from another side.

Regarding Healthcare, the priority should be to stop the epidemic immediately and to create the conditions so that its transmission does not get out of control again. Vaccination, and the reinforcement of public health teams, which should be responsible for identifying, isolating and testing close contacts, are fundamental elements of the response we need, not only in the present moment, but also in the future, to ensure that the situation does not get uncontrolled.

To move forward with vaccination is, indeed, one of the most relevant aspects to help Portuguese people to look at the future more hopefully.

What will the Government do in response to vaccines’ shortage, due to the lack of production capacity, and pharmaceutical companies’ refusal to suspend patent rights – companies with which the European Union signed the contracts that are tying up our country? Will or won’t the Government put in place measures to diversify vaccines’ acquisition, ensuring its availability under safety and efficacy condition, and complying with the goals expressed in the vaccination plan?

Economically and sociallywise, today’s priorities are no different from those before.

It is necessary to ensure the health protection of those still working onsite, namely those employed in essential services, not only while workers are commuting to work, but also in the workplaces.

It is necessary to materialize the public subsidies to job maintenance, to 100% wage-payment, to support the unemployed, the SMEs, the managing partners, the informal workers and those with precarious contracts, the families with children at their charge, and to all of those in need.

In opposition to what was conveyed by the Supplementary Fiscal Budget in 2020, which was only good to keep the cuts on wages and to offer tax discounts to large companies, the 2021 Fiscal Budget is based on the idea that the Government has to answer to the present situation. And it urges to give that answer.

At last, President, Prime-Minister and other Government members, deputies, it is now necessary to prepare the exit from the State of Emergency and from lockdown, setting the health conditions and rules under which the economic, social, cultural and sportive life can be resumed, giving the Portuguese population the confidence to face and to organize their future.

To repeatedly recourse to restrictive measures, to the State of Emergency, the chaotic announcements, panic instigation and the appeal to fear, are dangerously leading people to relativize the safety measures and behaviors that should really be addressed.

The Portuguese Communist Party will engage all efforts denouncing those political options, and struggling against their disastrous results, no matter who are responsible for those.

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