1. Preventing transmission
The section on PREVENTING TRANSMISSION includes information on key public health measures that aim to prevent the further spread of the disease. It details how countries are advising the general public and people who (might) have the disease to prevent further spread, as well as measures in place to test and identify cases, trace contacts, and monitor the scale of the outbreak.
1.1 Health communication
On 30 April, the government announced publicly the calendar and the conditions for lifting some containment measures (https://www.portugal.gov.pt/pt/gc22/comunicacao/documento?i=plano-de-desconfinamento). The calendar includes a number of measures in several sectors to be revised every two weeks. All sectors must adopt the necessary measures to ensure physical distancing by reducing their maximum capacity, and adequate cleaning, hygiene and ventilation (see Section 1.2).
The first information for the public from the Directorate-General of Health on the novel Coronavirus was issued on 14 January (https://covid19.min-saude.pt/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Comunicado-de-14_01_2020.pdf). This information stated that “preliminary data do not show evidence of person-to-person transmission” and advised travellers in high risk regions on hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and to avoid contact with animals or close contact with people with respiratory symptoms. As the epidemic evolved in China, more updated information to the general public was issued by the Directorate-General of Health, with new data from China and from the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC). No travel restrictions were put in place but people who had recently travelled to affected areas and experienced respiratory symptoms were advised to call the SNS 24 Contact Centre (808 24 24 24) for further information and health advice. On 25 January, the first suspected case of COVID-19 was identified in Portugal. Although the case was not confirmed, on 26 January the Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised against all but essential travel to China.
Besides general advice to the public, press conferences were conveyed by the Directorate-General of Health when the first suspected cases were identified in Portugal. Daily press releases were issued by the Directorate-General of Health from January 23 to February 26. Currently, daily press conferences take place at the Ministry of Health at around 12:30pm, with a member of the Ministerial Cabinet (usually the State Secretary for Health on week days and the Minister of Health on weekends) and the Director-General of Health, to communicate the epidemiological evolution in the country. Since June 15, press conferences are held 3 times per week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays).
A dedicated website (http://covid19.min-saude.pt) was created to inform the general public on COVID-19 with advice on hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, main symptoms of COVID-19, posters and leaflets for schools, public services and airports, videos, among others.