Sunday, May 30, 2021

Tourism 2021 off to a good start


Tourism 2021 has started well in Portugal, particularly in the Algarve where it’s economically vital.

Things are looking good for June, on into July and well beyond.

For the last two weeks of May following the easing of lockdowns and travel bans, visitors from abroad have been enjoying themselves in the warm sunshine. Many tourist-orientated businesses have reopened, many jobs revitalised and the economy in general is on the way to recovery.

“We are off to a strong start and the numbers for June could be close to the numbers pre-COVID, if not exceeding them,” Daniel de Adro, vice-president of the Algarve Regional Tourism Board, told the UK magazine Travel Weekly.  

The Algarve is now in a good position to dismiss 2020, “the lost year,” he added.

UK visitor numbers in the Algarve, which normally represent half of all airport arrivals to the region, fell by 85% last year compared to 2019. International arrivals at Faro airport dropped overall by 74%.

While it may be an exaggeration to say that holiday demand for the region suddenly “exploded” on being placed on the “green list” by England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, it certainly gave Portugal plenty of exposure.

Among the first UK arrivals in May were singing superstar Rod Stewart (76) and his wife Penny Lancaster. They hired a private jet to bring them here. They shared their joy of staying at the luxurious Vila Vita resort in Porches, Lagoa, on Instagram. News of their visit, together with photographs of the couple languishing in beautiful surroundings, were then published in the Daily Mail newspaper.

Things could be better, of course, especially for hotels in Portugal that have not yet been able to properly prepare to take advantage of the increase in the numbers of bookings that for open hotels have   exceeded expectations. Some hotels that have been at a standstill for a year and a half will not be ready to reopen until later in June.

The full operation of the hotels is "dependent on the stability of the markets that send tourists, particularly the British and the domestic market that may be affected by a possible setback caused by the pandemic, " Elidérico Viegas president of the Association of Hotels and Tourist Enterprises in the Algarve (AHETA) told the Portuguese Lusa news agency.

“If these factors continue, we can expect that this summer will be much better than last year and hope that in September, with the start of the high golf season, demand will be close to normal,” he said.

“If this growth outlook is met, the region will be able to prepare itself for “a year of some recovery in 2022.” As for 2023, there are expectations “of a return to almost normality.” 

Elidérico Viegas added. “The mass vaccination of the Algarve’s population is the best way of guaranteeing the safety of people who want to choose the Algarve as their destination."

Portugal is accelerating its vaccination rollout nationwide with 30-year-olds starting on June 6 and 40-year-olds from June 20. The health authorities are also ramping up testing, targeting schools, vulnerable populations like asylum seekers, and crowded areas such as central train stations in Lisbon.

Pharmacies in Lisbon already offer a free antigen test every 15 days. “We must act in a preventative, proactive manner, to break chains of transmission,” Health Secretary  Lacerda Sales said.

Portugal has been lifting restrictions in a step-by-step loosening of the rules underway since April after four months of stringent lockdown.

While cases have since remained relatively stable nationwide at around 300 to 600 new cases per day, Lisbon saw a steeper rise in May, particularly among young adults, the health secretary said.

It came as no surprise that many of the thousands of football supporters who descended on the northern city of Porto for the Chelsea vs Manchester City UEFA Champions League Final indulged in the region’s best known commodity. Regardless of the excellence of Douro Valley wines, the sheer quantities consumed by many fans created enthusiasm that at times was somewhat excessive but didn’t call for much police intervention.

A potentially much more damaging event was a threatened strike by the airports and border security police force, SEF. It could have severely disrupted inbound and outbound visitors, but the strike has been abandoned.

Meanwhile Portugal’s economic recovery has been fast and strong since the country started easing its COVID-19 lockdown in mid-March, Economy Minister Pedro Siza Vieira told Reuters.   Growth this year may exceed the government’s forecast of 4%, he said.

The economy slumped by 7.6% last year. The government predicted in April this year that the economy would grow 4% in 2021.

“We are envisaging more favourable growth,” Siza Vieira said, pointing to the ongoing resumption of tourism as a significant factor. Tourism accounted for nearly 15% of gross domestic product before the pandemic.


Thursday, May 20, 2021

Coping with dementia: protection

Generally speaking, people over the age of 18 are able to exercise their rights personally and freely, fulfill their obligations and look after their assets themselves.

However, there are citizens who, for a variety of reasons cannot consciously and freely exercise these functions without the support or intervention of another person. The Lei do Maior Acompanhado regime is intended precisely for the latter. The law’s aim is to preserve the independence that the person still has and, as far as possible, to increase it. In this sense, a court, after examining all the evidence provided at a hearing and with reference to medical information, will decide which actions the individual can and must continue to practice freely and those which, for their own protection, must be carried out by or with the help of an accompanying person. There are certain acts that the accompanying person may only perform after obtaining the court's specific authorisation.

Living Wills

Living wills and other advance directives are written, legal instructions regarding your preferences for medical care if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. Advance directives guide choices for doctors and caregivers if you are in the late stages of dementia, terminally ill, seriously injured, in a coma, or near the end of life. Living wills have no power after death.

Advance directives are not just for older adults. Unexpected end of life situations can occur at any age, therefore it is important for all adults to prepare these documents.

By planning ahead, you can obtain the medical care you specifically want, avoid unnecessary suffering and relieve caregivers of decision-making burdens during moments of crisis or grief. You also help reduce confusion or disagreement about the choices you would want people to make on your behalf.

I’m here!

"Estou Aqui" bracelets are specially designed for people who, depending on their age or pathology, may become disorientated or unconscious, even momentarily, when in public. The bracelets are designed to assist in safety and to ensure a speedy reunion with a relative or acquaintance. Activation can be made by the user themselves or by a third party through the option “request Institution / Carer”.

The bracelet is made up of a comfortable fabric tape and a metal plate with an alphanumeric code and the inscription; "Call/Ligue 112". The bracelet is free, personal and non-transferable. To obtain a bracelet you must register on the website and then go to the designated police station to collect and activate it.

For more on this:


The information in Portugal Newswatch’s three special reports this week has been provided by Alzheimer’s Portugal, a national, non-profit organization dedicated to giving advice to people with any form of dementia, members of their families and carers.

The organisation’s official website:


Alzheimer’s Portugal has offices backed by municipalities in many parts of the country. Face-to-face consultations with specialists can be arranged by appointment:

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Coping with dementia: communicating


In this, the second in a three-part series based on information provided by the Associação Alzheimer’s Portugal, we look at the fundamental importance of communication between those with dementia and those closest to them.

Due to the gradual progression of dementia, communication problems can arise and lead to frustration, confusion and sometimes even anger. 

The needs and desires of the person with dementia may not be satisfied and their behaviour may be misunderstood by others. Those with dementia may begin to feel more isolated. Failure to communicate properly can cause them embarrassment, especially if those close to them draw attention to their mistakes.

It’s not uncommon for people with dementia to start using a less complex style of language. They may use shorter sentences or a limited vocabulary. They may talk less and ultimately not talk at all. 

Some ways to make verbal communication easier: 

- Try to have a positive attitude. 

- Sit facing the person with dementia and try to encourage them to talk. 

- Try to understand the feeling they express. 

- Avoid drawing too much attention to their shortcomings. 

- Give your support. 

- Adapt your language style and tone of voice without sounding artificial. 

- Make sure there are no physical problems affecting communication, such as a lack of hearing or sight. 

- Ask closed questions and give only two options (e.g. instead of, "What shirt do you want to wear?", use "Do you want to wear this shirt or this one?”) 

- Give only short, objective instructions at a time. 


Non-verbal communication 

and physical contact 

As verbal communication becomes more difficult, it may be easier to switch to non-verbal communication, focusing on tone of voice, eye contact, facial expression, posture, sign language and physical contact. 

If using non-verbal communication when talking to the person with dementia:

- Always try to communicate at the person's eye level.

- Try to maintain eye contact.

 - Make sure you are not giving confusing messages. 

- Try to understand the body language of the person with dementia.

- Transmit security and support through physical contact such as touching hands. 

Keep in mind that as the illness progresses, many skills are lost and some are maintained. The person with dementia may still preserve their sense of touch and hearing, as well as their ability to respond to emotion. 

Its important for a person with dementia to have something to occupy them so that their brain is stimulated. This also helps to control some symptoms of the disease, such as agitation. 

It’s also important that those with dementia, accompanied by their nearest and dearest, should be regularly checked by their specialist doctor who could be a neurologist or a psychiatrist. The medications prescribed by specialists can help to control the symptoms of the disease and slow its progress.


 Portugal Newswatch this Saturday:  legal help for those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia


Follow PORTUGAL NEWSWATCH by emai (see top right).

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Coping with dementia: overview


Dementia, the most prevalent form of which is Alzheimer’s, is a condition affecting about 50 million people worldwide, with around 10 million new cases reported each year. This, the first in a three-part series, is based on information provided by the Associação Alzheimer’s Portugal, which is devoted to helping those with the illness and those close to them.


Alzheimer's is a neurodegenerative disease that slowly and progressively destroys brain cells. The disease affects memory and mental functioning, such as thought and speech. It often leads to other problems such as confusion, mood swings and disorientation in time and space.


At first, the symptoms may be slight and go unnoticed by the family or others. As the disease progresses, however, the symptoms become more and more noticeable. Memory loss is one of the most important.


Especially at an early stage, a person with dementia may try to hide some of the consequences of memory loss out of embarrassment or shame. Later, they may no longer be aware of memory problems and their shortcomings. 


It is normal for a person with dementia to ask repetitive questions. Since their recent memory is more affected, we should try to maintain a positive attitude with much patience. Try to answer as if the person were asking us the question for the first time. When we tire of answering the same question, one strategy to adopt is to divert the person's attention to something else, or to occupy them in some other way. 


In coping with memory loss: 

- Try to maintain a positive attitude and foster calm. 

- Do not take the behaviour to heart. 

- Avoid drawing too much attention to mistakes and problems. 


Problems due to memory loss can be avoided by creating routines with things at home and then not making unnecessary changes. 


As the disease progresses, people with dementia need more assistance for their personal hygiene. They may lose the ability to use objects such as combs and toothbrushes.  They may also forget what these objects are, and more importantly, what their purpose is.


They may forget there is a task to be done, have the impression that they have already done it, or lose interest in keeping everything clean and looking good.  


The fact that a person needs more help does not necessarily mean that he or she will enjoy receiving it. The person may resent being dependent on you and feel that their privacy is being invaded. 


It is very important to encourage independence. We must support and help the person with dementia in their daily activities, but we must not replace them and do things for them unnecessarily. It is important that the person with dementia performs tasks if possible even if it takes longer. Anything that the person fails to do or practice will soon be forgotten or the ability lost. 


There are various ways of providing assistance depending on the level of understanding and capacity of the person with dementia. For example, you can let the person wash themselves, providing just a little help when necessary, or you can explain or demonstrate, step by step, what to do. 


One idea would be to prepare everything first - such as a clean change of clothes, run the bath water, preheat the bathroom, arrange the towels, shampoo and soap -  and then leave them to wash themselves if this is possible.


Later this week: dementia communication and legalities.

Portugal Newswatch – follow by emai (see top right).

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Green light for English tourists

The Azores and Madeira along with mainland Portugal have been officially given the green light by the British government for holiday visits when England lifts its overseas travel ban on May 17. 

Only 12 countries worldwide, most of them distant, have been included in the least restrictive category on the UK’s so-called green, amber and red ‘traffic light system’.

The announcement has come as a huge relief to the vital Portuguese tourism sector that has long been at a standstill because of the COVID-19 international lockdowns.

Portugal and the autonomous regions are considered COVID ‘low risk’ and thus among the safest destinations.

The only other green list places on relative short flight routes from the UK are Gibraltar, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Israel. The rest, including Australia and New Zealand are in the far south.

Spain, Italy, France and the United States, all hugely popular destinations, are among the many countries left off the green list. They are considered higher risk and rated amber.

As Portugal is the first Mediterranean destination to make it on to the green list, the number of flight and accommodation bookings immediately began to surge.

For now, the new arrangement only applies to England. The arrangement will be reviewed every three weeks. Decisions on overseas travel from other parts of the United Kingdom are expected soon

Travellers to green list countries will have to take two COVID tests, before leaving and one within two days of returning, but if the tests prove negative, travellers will not have to quarantine. Those returning from amber list countries will have to self-isolate.

On the downside of all this, airlines and travel agencies say the traffic light system is over-cautious and more countries should be on the green list. It has also been pointed out that holidaying prices could considerably increase and passengers are likely to face delays at airports because of extra COVID paperwork checking.

 UK transport minister Grant Shapps said on Friday: “Today marks our first step in our cautious return to international travel, with measures designed above all else to protect public health and ensure we don’t throw away the hard fought gains we’ve all strived to earn this year.”



Saturday, May 1, 2021

Press freedom under pressure

The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres promotes World Press Freedom Day annually on 3rd May to raise awareness of the fundamental importance of press freedom and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under the1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Journalists and media workers are crucial in helping us make informed decisions,” the former Portuguese prime minister pointed out last May: “As the world fights the COVID-19 pandemic, those decisions can make the difference between life and death. On World Press Freedom Day we call on governments - and others – to guarantee that journalists can do their job throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Secretary-General Guterres said last week that, “during the pandemic and other crises, including the climate emergency, journalists and media workers are helping us navigate a fast-changing and often overwhelming landscape of information, while addressing dangerous inaccuracies and falsehoods. In too many countries they run too many personal risks, including new restrictions, censorship, abuse, harassment, detention and even death simply for doing their job - and the situation continues to worsen.”

The European Federation of Journalists and its members have observed clear deterioration of press freedom in Europe. It quotes a report of the Council of Europe published last week saying that the number of physical attacks on journalists and media workers as well as the cases of harassment and intimidation reached a record level in 2020.

Portugal adopted the right to freedom of expression after the ‘Carnation’ Revolution of 25th April 1974. For centuries before that freedom of expression was controlled by the Catholic Church, a succession of monarchs and the Estado Novo political dictatorship. This country’s constitution now extends freedom of expression to all media.

The Reporters Without Borders press freedom index showing the independence of the media and how safe and free it is for journalists around the world to do their job shows a continuing improvement in Portugal’s status from 2013 to 2021. Portugal is currently 9th in the world rankings, after Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Jamaica and New Zealand. The United Kingdom is ranked 33rd and the United States 44th.

The main problem facing journalists in Portugal as in Europe generally has been pandemic budget cuts that has affected even some of the biggest news companies and has resulted in job losses or reduced pay.

The Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), whose global team of reporters revealed the leaked ‘Panama Papers’ in May 2016, is an example of journalistic excellence, but even it regularly seeks donations to keep going.

Important information passed on to the public by local, regional or national media may not be as well researched and accurately reported as ICIJ, a major reason being that many are understaffed with journalists who are unduly pressurise not only to meet tight deadlines, but produce too many headline stories that fit with their employers’ political and commercial leanings. This in some cases encourages ‘churnalism’ as opposed to journalism. Some papers are prepared to virtually plagiarise even ‘exclusive’ stories from other papers.

Ironically coinciding with Press Freedom Day, Madeleine McCann disappeared 14 years ago on 3rd May. The mystery became the most reported missing person case in history. It has obsessed the media and millions of readers and viewers around the world. When reporting on the thee official suspects during the initial Portuguese investigation into the disappearance, some British tabloids published reports that were inaccurate or fake - or blatantly libellous. These papers were held to account in court and ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds in damages.

On the other hand, the long libel action taken by  Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, against the former Portuguese detective Gonçalo Amaral for allegations in his book The truth of the Lie, was overturned on appeal by Portugal’s Supreme Court on the grounds that the author was entitled to freedom of expression. An outcome is awaited from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on the McCann’s appeal against the judgement of Portugal’s highest court.

Meanwhile in the social media, the ethics of those commenting in any way on whoever or whatever they choose is something else. With almost unlimited freedom of expression, anonymous social media trolls don’t mind making the most despicable comments knowing they can still get away with it.

In principle, global freedom of expression is highly desirable, but it still has a long way to go.