From July 1st, anyone who wants to go to the Azores will be able to be tested prior to covid-19 on the continent. The Regional Government, through the Secretariat of Health, announced that it will make “conventions with private laboratories and the social sector” to facilitate the procedures for those who want to travel to the archipelago. The test must be done 72 hours before the trip and if it is positive, the passenger will no longer embark for the region.
The rules for those arriving in the Azores remain. Passengers will either have to give a negative test to covid-19 on arrival or undergo screening upon disembarkation and remain in prophylactic isolation until the results are released. The difference is that now the tests will all be paid for by the Azorean government, whereas before the region only assumed the costs of the tests done on arrival.
Most passengers arriving in the Azores choose to perform the test upon disembarkation. From a practical point of view, with the new measure, starting next month, the passenger avoids costs with the test and the requirement of having to stay in isolation waiting for the result.
The statement released by the regional executive, led by the socialist Vasco Cordeiro, explains that “citizens will be able to choose the laboratory in which they intend to test for the new coronavirus from the list of contracted entities, which will be released on the Azorean Government portal. ”. Afterwards, passengers must present the “proof of reservation” and “payment of the trip” to start the process.
Although the locations of the laboratories are not yet known, an official source from the Health Secretariat said to the PUBLIC that the objective is to cover “the entire continental territory” and not just the “big cities”. The exception seems to be the autonomous region of Madeira, which, according to the same source, should not be included – at least for now – in the network of laboratories. The disclosure of the list is dependent on “legal procedures” with the respective laboratories, but should be known “soon”, as a result of the partnership between the Government of the Azores and the National Association of Clinical Analysis Laboratories.
The measure is announced at a time when covid-19 returned to the region. On June 5, after 146 cases and 16 deaths, the Azorean Health Authority announced the recovery of the last infected. Five days later, and after 23 days without new cases, a new one appears, who was eventually sent back to the continent because he was a military man on duty.
But with the lack of definition and the resumption of flights Azores Airlines (from the public regional group SATA) between the archipelago and the continent, new cases appeared. Currently, there are three infected with covid-19 in the region: two in São Miguel and one in Terceira.
“Simplify” the arrival of tourists
Conducting tests at the origin for those who want to go to the Azores seeks a balance between health issues and the need to bring tourists to the region. The PSD / Açores had already suggested the measure, also applied by Madeira: “The region should be working to ensure that the tests carried out at the airport issuing and destined for the Azores can be paid for by the region”, said the President of the Social Democrats Azores, José Manuel Bolieiro, on the 16th of June.
An idea that Vasco Cordeiro, president of the Regional Government, rejected on 22 June, referring that the objective of containing the pandemic “is not just the task of an entity”, stressing that the executive already assumed the costs of tests carried out in the Azores.
In the same week, and after several associations in the tourism sector (such as the Associação Hotelaria de Portugal, Associação de Alojamento Local and AHRESP) came to the public to advocate the carrying out of tests done at the origin, the Regional Government stepped back and decided to proceed with measure.
“I am satisfied. This initiative responds to a desire in the tourism sector that was to be less complicated and less time consuming to travel to the Azores destination ”, says to the PUBLIC Rui Anjos, president of the Azores delegation of AHRESP, which represents entrepreneurs in the hotel and tourism sector restoration. The businessman says that the measure “safeguards” health issues, with the “benefit” of being “less bureaucratic”.
“Anyone who arrives here in the Azores can be completely free to go to their destination, without confinement and without further delay to enjoy what the region has to offer”, says the association’s official, stressing the need to continue working to “simplify the coming tourists to the region ”.