The prime minister will soon meet with experts to assess a possible easing of pandemic restrictions. At a time when the pandemic activity is slowing down, the experts told ECO that they defend the end of mass testing, with the digital certificate becoming mandatory for bars, clubs and large events, as well as the end of banning alcoholic beverages on the street and wearing a mask to remain in most closed public spaces.

“The vast majority of restrictions can be lifted”, given that “we are at a time when the Omicron wave is reducing and, therefore, the obligation to present a test to enter the various places - with the exception of hospitals and homes, can be lifted, as well as the obligation to present the certificate in restaurants or other places", said Gustavo Tato Borges, president of the National Association of Public Health Physicians (ANMSP), to ECO.

The position is shared by Bernardo Gomes, a Public Health doctor and researcher at the Institute of Public Health at the University of Porto (ISPUP), who argues that there should be a “transfer” from the obligation to present a negative test to the obligation to present a digital certificate, one of the three modalities (vaccination, testing or recovery), namely for clubs, bars, sporting events and major events. “The rest, in terms of simplification and a probabilistic approach, does not seem like a great solution”, he points out, referring to the current requirement to present a certificate in restaurants, hotels and local accommodation or, for example, in gyms.

Hospitals and nursing homes

As for hospitals, primary health care or nursing homes, the scenario is a little different, as they are usually places where there are people “who are in a situation of greater weakness”, so testing should continue. "Hospital care, primary health care or even homes are places where the use of mandatory mask and the testing certificate are added value", signals the president of ANMSP, suggesting that tests may not need to be done every day, but for example “once a week” in the case of nursing homes and “within 48 hours” in the case of hospitals.

Masks should continue

The idea is, therefore, to “simplify” the rules and “reduce the bureaucratic burden”, but, at the same time, “maintain some control”, with a view to easing measures with caution. In this context, the experts consulted by the ECO consider that the use of a mask should continue to be mandatory in most closed public spaces.

“It is important to maintain caution in closed public spaces”, namely “shopping centreds, supermarkets, public services, public transport and health units”, summarises Bernardo Gomes. As for the mandatory use of a mask in restaurants, clubs or hotels, the Public Health doctor argues that “there is no great logic”.

On the other hand, Bernardo Gomes reiterates that it is important to invest in the ventilation of spaces, especially in spaces where children under the age of five attend classes, as they do not usually wear a mask or have a vaccine. At the same time, the researcher also warns that, if the measures currently in force are to be relieved, communication must be clear and “congruent”, conveying that “there are still many uncertainties”, given that “new waves” of the pandemic are expected. “You have to keep some reserve and not give false security.”

The prime minister revealed on Wednesday that he will speak with the President of the Republic to assess the need to convene a new meeting of experts, at Infarmed, to analyse the evolution of the pandemic and a possible lifting of restrictions. In addition, the Government has already planned a meeting with experts who advise the Executive on decision-making for the end of this week, or the beginning of the next.