The Portuguese know that you don’t need to touch someone’s hand to touch their heart. It’s in the simple day-to-day gestures that you show you care, and in this exceptional time for the World, Portugal has once again been at the forefront of showing that, for now, there are many other ways of showing “beijinhos e abraços” (kisses and hugs)
The Portuguese know that you don’t need to touch someone’s hand to touch their heart. It’s in the simple day-to-day gestures that you show you care, and in this exceptional time for the World, Portugal has once again been at the forefront of showing that, for now, there are many other ways of showing “beijinhos e abracos” (kisses and hugs).
As Coronavirus slowly makes its way into Portugal, as was expected in our global world, the Portuguese have been sharing extraordinary examples of what it takes to keep a community strong, positive and united.
From all over the country, there have been numerous initiatives that are allowing communities to be even closer although keeping at home, as was recommended by the Government and world health authorities. With schools closed and the majority of businesses affected by safety measures, the Portuguese have been voluntarily staying inside and urging others to so as well, creating local help groups so that citizens who are more vulnerable are looked after.
In many villages and even in buildings in larger cities, neighbours have come together to guarantee that everyone who needs groceries, medication, or other necessities will have access to them without having to leave their homes.
Some Juntas de Freguesia (local administrative subdivisions of each municipality) have offered to pick up medical prescriptions from health centres or go to the pharmacy free of charge for all residents over the age of 65. Local pharmacies are also offering to deliver medication for a very small fee.
This wave of solidarity has also led many to participate in public demonstrations of appreciation for the tireless work of healthcare providers. Last Saturday, the Portuguese joined together on balconies all over the country to applaud the people who work in healthcare centres, hospitals, and ambulances. “Obrigado!” was shouted into the night sky and the clapping could be heard inside the hospitals from north to south, in a heartfelt display of gratitude and pride for belonging to a country that is united and confident.
In other cities, banners were placed next to hospitals, also with a message of encouragement and thanks, and all over social media several images and messages have shared the gratitude towards healthcare workers. At Maria Luisa Beach, in the Algarve, even the sand served as a platform to pay tribute: "Thank you Health Professionals from Portugal and the World":
Local businesses are also sharing the love, offering free lodging in holiday homes for health care workers who are displaced, and even free accommodation services for pets while their concerned owners are away saving lives.
There are also multiple Internet platforms offering free access to books, plays, educational resources for students to study from home, and even an online music festival where 78 artists will perform live every day, during six days, called Festival #EuFicoEmCasa (#IStayatHome).
Despite the vigorous containment measures implemented so far and the strong civic sense demonstrated by the Portuguese, it's impossible to know what effect these positive signs will have in the coming weeks. However, there is one thing that all Portuguese do know, and that is the Government's commitment to providing excellent health care for all those who need it most.
The NHS - National Health System (in Portuguese, SNS - Servico Nacional de Saude) provides treatment for all citizens, residents and non-residents, and is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and highly qualified health professionals.
In the case of Portuguese citizens, access to public health care is generally free, with only a small co-payment required for the majority of the working population. In the case of hospitalizations, these are completely free in Portugal for all the population, regardless of age, care required, or duration of treatments. These days, paying for health care is fortunately not a concern for the Portuguese!
As far as EU citizens are concerned, Portugal also guarantees the same rights in access to public healthcare, and all third-country nationals can be assisted through private health insurance plans which are widely accepted in private medical centres and hospitals.
In a spirit of national unity, the Portuguese have also taken voluntary measures to stay at home, as the Government grants paid sick leave to all those who are ill, are part of the risk groups, or are required to stay home to look after their children. It has also publicly stated that it will help all businesses affected, so the Portuguese remain confident and can concentrate on what is really important: keeping themselves, their loved ones, and their communities safe.
In a time of uncertainty all over the world, it’s reassuring to know that the Portuguese’s warm hospitality and sense of community remain strong, bringing people together now more than ever. If your neighbour has a small garden and kindly leaves you a bag of home-grown fruits and veggies at your doorstep, that might not be a cure for Covid-19, but the vitamins will help keep your immune system strong and your heart warm. Just don’t run to thank them personally, there’ll be plenty of time for hugs in the future!
From Portugal Realty’s family to yours, please make sure to keep up to date with health official’s recommendations, namely:
For any inquiries about your personal health, please call Linha Saúde 24 (Telephone 808 24 24 24, Portugal’s free 24-hour NHS hotline) before seeking non-urgent medical help.
Now, more than ever, the simple life in Portugal and a neighbour’s friendly smile from the window next door may just be what we need for a healthier and happier future!
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