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Post Coronavirus Report: Portugal
Created by John Eipper on 04/02/20 3:59 AM

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Coronavirus Report: Portugal (Mendo Henriques, Portugal, 04/02/20 3:59 am)

A greeting to all WAISers, and with hopes that they are safe.

Here is a summary of the pandemic situation in Portugal, as of March 31st:

Total infected: 7,443
Infected at present: 7,240
Recovered: 43
Deaths: 160
Deaths per 1 million population: 16

According to projections in the chart below, it could get worse. "Fique em casa" (stay at home) is imperative.


The economy comes after. The world economy was already sick with public debt, the global relocation of production and hallucinatory consumerism. The shock arrived in the worst and unexpected way, but it has come.

As regards to the pandemic in Portugal, the first case of coronavirus was detected on March 1. There has been testing since the third week of February. The media was hysterical until the first infected person was detected. Traditional media coverage (TV, press) has overinformation, while the social networks (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) show no particular signs of hysteria.

Civil society started to mobilize before the government took action. Municipalities in the north of the country decreed isolation on March 3. Public universities were the first to close on March 7. Private schools started to close and so did the small businesses. A state of emergency was declared on March 23 and mandatory quarantine was enacted. Supermarkets and some small groceries, pharmacies, banks and kiosks are open. There is a package of support measures for corporations regarding layoffs; the solution is much discussed because it involves credit (0.3% interest) more than cash payments. People confined at home are entitled to 66% of their salaries. The prime minister, Antonio Costa deserves credit for his handling of the situation.

Personally, my family and myself are well, so far. The Catholic University of Lisbon closed classrooms on March 11 and we started e-learning. Personally this was not new to philosophy, politics and economics courses. We have had on-line instruction since 2013 and we use the ZOOM platform, with licenses on US servers. By the way, God bless America for being at the forefront of communication technologies (at least as long as Huawei doesn't reach it ...).  And with the same impetus, may God and American voters in November remove the dysfunctional President Trump, a narcissistic psychopath according to continental European standards. I hesitate which Roman emperor I should compare him to; I believe that the most suitable is Caligula, who declared himself a god and named his horse "Incitatus" as a senator.

History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes, wrote Mark Twain. My rhyme for the calamity of coronavirus is with the fall of 1914. The entirety of Europe had been hysterical for war, under the whip of sovereigns, autocrats and democrats alike. We remember the photos of the smiling soldiers who left in August 1914 for "the war that was going to end all wars." By October everyone was in the mud in the trenches. Four years and 20 million dead later, the world had changed completely.

Portugal had a small participation in the war: 50 thousand soldiers in Flanders and 50 thousand soldiers in Africa. About 10,000 dead. They were beaten by the Germans in every theater of operations. I wrote a book about the battle of La Lys April 9, 1918, in Flanders. April 9th is Portuguese Defense Day, a defeat, as in Alamo.

I insist on this parallel between the current pandemic and First World War because I believe that the day after will be similar. The coronavirus pandemic is not expected to cause so many deaths, even according to the worst predictions; but the economic and social change will be as much or more profound than after 1918.

JE comments:  We've compared 2020 to 1918-1919 and the "Spanish" Flu, but 1914 is also apt, especially the hubris, ignorance, and global scope.  The changes--social, political, cultural and economic--after 1918 were truly massive.  Mendo, why do you believe we'll emerge from this crisis changed to a similar degree?  I see the world as hoping we'll return to "normalcy" sometime this summer.  Admittedly, we'll be poorer and less employed.

Finally, Portugal so far has suffered far fewer infections and deaths than neighboring Spain.  Mendo, do you perceive any Hispanophobic sentiment in Lisbon?

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