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Masking Calamity

The mandatory use mask wearing in all public spaces came into force at midnight last night, coinciding with the Regional Governments (RG) extension of a ‘State of Calamity,’ which will remain in force until the 31st of August.

This very controversial new law was made public by the Regional Government last Tuesday with wide cross sections of the population and business community condemning the action on grounds of illegality, and the fact that Madeira’s Covid-19 profile is stable and under control.

However, with the expected entry of 150,000 visitors over the next two months, coinciding with the return to school of 43,000 students and 6,000 teachers, President Miguel Albuquerque insists that the Regional Governments priority is the safeguarding the health and life of those living in Madeira. Stating ‘this is our commitment. These are our upmost values.”

The mandatory use of a mask in “all kinds of public spaces” has not found universal approval a spokesperson for the Commercial and Industrial Association of Funchal (ACIF) says that its members consider the resolution was communicated in a “disastrous” manner, which has so far caused losses of up to 100 thousand euros in cancelled holiday/trip reservations.

Moreover, the leader of the PS/Madeira, Paulo Cafôfo, said that the extension of the ‘State of Calamity’ and the mandatory use of masks are “negative for tourism,” as they transmit an “image of insecurity “of Madeira as a holiday destination.

Former Regional Government President Alberto João Jardim used the social network ‘Twitter’ to affirm that the region “cannot legislate” in terms of individual rights, freedoms and guarantees, “much less by executive resolution”. He concluded by saying “Any identified agent who violates such freedoms risks criminal proceedings.”

In protest a petition was created on portal ‘Petição Pública’ against mandatory mask use in all public spaces’ which has more than 5,000 signatures.

Responding to criticism, the RG stresses that there are several exceptions, such as sports practice, physical activity and or leisure that involves physical effort, recreational-sports activities in forest areas and recommended walking routes, beaches, bathing areas and complexes and access to the sea.  All of which participants must adhere to the Covid-19 health and safety regulations.

Furthermore, children up to the age of 10 are exempt from wearing a mask and so are those who have  difficulty putting on or taking off a  mask without assistance.

The Public Security Police (PSP) issued a statement on the 31st of July, saying that they will carry out their orders to ensure that citizens adhere to the new practice, and they will be paying particular attention to groups of people who, not belonging to the same household, are on the public road without a mask or visor.

Under a ‘State of Calamity’ a government can:

Provide for the civil mobilisation of people for specific periods of time.

Set limitations or mobility conditions on people and other living beings for their own safety.

Create sanitary and safety enclosures.

Streamline public transport, communication networks, water and energy supplies as well as basic goods.

Samantha Gannon

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