Monday, 12 October 2020

The lessons we can learn from Madeira and New Zealand about beating Covid

 I've just returned from a two week holiday in Madeiria. We chose Madeira because it is just about the only place that you can enjoy the sun and not have to self isolate. It is only when you see how other nations do things, that you realise that we have a lot to learn. I spoke to a friend in New Zealand over the weekend and it is clear that some nations have got it right and some have got it wrong. 

You may say "well they are only small nations, it is easier for them to control an outbreak". This misses the point that the many of the measures they have done are so obvious and so straightforward that there is no earthly reason that we couldn't do the same thing. It is worth noting that China, despite having the first outbreak, got to grips with it very quickly once it was clear what they were facing. China has a registered death count of 4,634 around one tenth of the count we've had with one hundred times the population. 

I am not an epidemiologist, but having been to a place that has got the disease under control it really isn't rocket science to see why. All along there has been strong directiona and leadership, with clear rules, which everyone stuck to. They locked down harder initially, which allowed them to get rid of the virus. They put measures in place to keep it out. New Zealand has done remarkably similar things.

Here is what they do in Madeira

1. Testing on arrival. When you arrive in Madeira, you either have to have a certificate stating that you've had a clear Covid test within the last 72 hours, or you have to have a free test at the airport. Getting registered and having the test takes around 30 minutes. You then have to make your way to where you are staying until you get your result, which takes approx six hours.

2. If you are clear, you get regular texts to update your status, if you are well, you simply say you are OK. If you show symptoms, you have to report for another test and self isolate until the result is forthcoming. 

3. If you fail, you either stay where you are until you are clear, or the Madeira govt put you up in a hotel and pay for your board and lodgings. 

4. Everyone respects the protocol of wearing masks and sanitising hands. We saw no cases of people refusing. It seems strange that so many people in the UK have conditions that prevent them from wearing masks, but no one in Madeira has the same issue?

The Maderia Web site says

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Since the beginning of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic no fatalities have been reported and Madeira Island has one of the lowest infection rates in Europe. Wearing a mask is compulsory only in shopping centres, shops, public transport or enclosed areas. There is no need to wear a mask if you’re walking the streets, beaches, or any outside activity. Restaurants and Bars with open air esplanades are also mask free.

When it was clear what was happening, Madeira closed their airport to all flights and put new arrivals under quarantine. The timeline of the outbreak and measures is summarised below. I felt quite ashamed when I thought about the chaotic mess we have. There night time and leisure industries are recovering. Ours are in chaos and turmoil.The root cause of the outbreak in the UK was unrestricted travel. This still hasn't been addressed. Personally I think no one should board a plane without being tested. I would also state that people arriving in the UK should not attend any mass gatherings of people for 14 days (conferences, sporting events, religious services etc). We need far better testing and tracing and we need mandatory fines for people who break quarantine. 

Anyway, this is the timeline of how Madeira dealt with the problems and reopened their tourist business.

16th March The President of the Regional Government of Madeira announced today, March 16, that there is no case of coronavirus or covid-19 reported on the Island of Madeira. To try to maintain Madeira virus free, all passengers arriving at Cristiano Ronaldo Madeira Airport will be under mandatory quarantine for 14 days, until further notice. This means that all Tour Operators are cancelling their flights to Madeira and Porto Santo except for return flights for tourists already on the Island. Hopefully soon things will returns to normal and Madeira will maintain it corona free status and welcome visitors to Madeira’s always Summer Climate. We will keep you updated in the coming days.

19th March Madeira registers two new positive cases of coronavirus. No deaths have been recorded. In total 3 positive cases are confirmed. A tourist arriving from Holland 5 days ago and a Madeiran resident arriving from Dubai, both quarantined immediately. The Government of the Portuguese Republic declares state of emergency as of 00.00 today 19 March, for 15 days. We hope that with this measure, we are able to contain the spread of the virus on Madeira Island.

29th March As of today, Madeira has 39 positive cases of COVID-19. So far, 198 suspected cases have been identified of which 155 tested negative. Further statistics show that there are 766 people under ‘active surveillance’ with a further 1462 people in ‘self-surveillance.’ Only one (1) coronavirus patient remains hospitalized in Madeira, although without the need for intensive care. The other 38 patients remain in isolation, 34 in their homes and the four Dutch citizens at Quinta do Lorde. No deaths due to COVID-19 infection were recorded in Madeira. The President of Madeira, Miguel Albuquerque issued a new mandate with regards to restrictions on movement and social isolation to contain the spread of the coronavirus. From 00.00 on the 31st of March the following measures come into force: 1 - From the 31st of March only essential business may remain open. 2 - All Hotel suspicious cases must undergo compulsory 14-day isolation period. 3 - A reduction from 120 to 100 passengers to airports Madeira Cristiano Ronaldo and Porto Santo allowed per week. All passengers are directed to comply with mandatory 14-day quarantine 4 - Reorganisation of the health system. Cessation of mobility between existing health units to prevent cross-contamination. 5 - Reinforcement of circulation measures and social gatherings are strictly limited to two people.

30th April No New cases of COVID-19 for the sixth consecutive days and NO DEATHS recorded in Madeira Island. The total number of positive cases remains at 86, with 43 patients having recovered. The number of active cases is down to 43. 176 cases await laboratory results. The emergency state ends and the state of calamity begins in Madeira from 00:00 on Sunday night, for a period of 15 days. The president of the Regional Government of Madeira, Miguel Albuquerque declares the situation of calamity and announced the reopening of some economic activities, hairdressers (appointment only), services and shopping centres. The strict measures that come into force are: - The use of a mask will be mandatory in all commercial spaces where there is a greater concentration of people, such as public transport, shopping centres, schools. - Workers must take temperature twice a day and maintain social distance. - All establishments must operate at one third of the capacity. - Visits to care homes are not allowed. - Restaurants will continue to operate in take-away. - Beaches remain 'closed'. - The reopening of economic activities will be evaluated weekly.

4th May Madeira has reached it's tenth consecutive day without any new cases of COVID-19, maintaining the number of 86 positive cases, 48 people have recovered, thus making a total of 38 active cases of infection. At the moment, 71 suspected cases await laboratory results. No deaths have been recorded. The region reopens some economic activities, such as shops, hair salons, barbers, and shopping centres, with tight restrictions established by the Regional Government. The reopening immediately imposes the obligation for both businesses and individuals to social distancing regulations, the use of masks in all closed spaces, in public transport and temperature screening of workers twice a day. Clear safety rules regarding the hygiene of employees, customers, disinfection of spaces and trying on or exchange of clothes, footwear, accessories and jewellery are prohibited. Cristiano Ronaldo and Porto Santo Airports will continue to operate a reduced number of two weekly flights and a maximum of 100 passengers allowed to disembark per week, maintaining the mandatory14-day quarantine for all. The ports and marinas of the archipelago will remain closed.


8th May There are no new cases of coronavirus for the second consecutive day and no deaths recorded in Madeira. The total number of positive cases remains at 90 and the number of recovered patients has increased to 52, since the hospitalized patient is now recovered, making a total of 38 active cases of infection. The president of the Regional Government of Madeira, Miguel Albuquerque announces today that churches and all other places of worship in Madeira will reopen to the public on Saturday, May 9th, limiting the capacity to one third and with strict measures in place. People must comply with social distancing rules, alcohol-based hand disinfectant is required before entering the church and the use of a mask is mandatory. After service, people should return home and avoid gatherings in the churchyard or surrounding areas. Porto Santo beach reopens under strict rules from Sunday, May 10th. The social distancing between bathers is mandatory and group gatherings is prohibited. Facilities, bars, cafes and restaurants along the beach will remain closed. The mandatory quarantine for Porto Santo will be lifted on the 18th of May for all residents of the archipelago. The Madeira Private Hospital and Madeira Medical Centre will resume their normal services starting Monday, May 11th. Entry will be allowed after a questionnaire and Temperature screening, mask and hand disinfectant are mandatory. Safety distance is also signalled in all services areas. MMC will resume all its services: clinical analysis, permanent care (adults), face-to-face consultations, imaging exams, cardiology, gastroenterology and nursing care, from Monday to Friday from 7:30 am to 9 pm, and Saturdays from 7:30 am to 2 pm. As for HPM, all exams and face-to-face consultations for adults and children will be activated, as well as permanent paediatric care, from 9 am to 12 am. As of May 11th, a series of individual sports will be allowed, while always maintaining social distancing, such as sport and recreational fishing, surfing, bodyboard, canoeing, tennis, motor racing, etc. Public and Forest spaces, recommended walking routes and some public gardens, such as Quinta do Santo da Serra, Quinta Magnolia, Jardim das Madalenas, Jardim do Amparo e Jardim de Santa Luzia will also reopen on May 11th. Maintaining all Facilities, bars, cafes and restaurants closed. Gyms will resume limited activity starting Tuesday, May 12th. Group classes can only take place outdoors at the condition to respect social distancing. Spaces are limited to one third of its capacity, showers and changing rooms remained closed. Members are only allowed to stay inside the gym for one hour, each member will be required to clean and sanitize equipment after each use. Museums, libraries, galleries, cultural centres and archives reopens Thursday, May 14th, with mandatory use of masks, hand disinfectant for all employees and visitors. Routine cleaning and disinfecting of regularly touched surfaces must be frequent and recorded. Beaches, bathing complexes and sea access reopens Friday, May 15th, if the pandemic situation continues to evolve favorably. More information in regards to safety rules, social distancing and hygiene will be announced next Thursday. Restaurants, bars, cafes and terraces may reopen on Monday, May 18th. The operating conditions will be announced at the end of next week.


 31st May Madeira records no new COVID-19 cases in 26 days and no deaths. Cumulative total of confirmed cases remains at 90, with 76 recovered cases, bringing the total number of 14 active cases of infection. From June 1, 2020 until June 30, 2020 - In order to avoid mandatory quarantine for 14 days, all travellers entering Madeira and Porto Santo must present a PCR test, issued no more than 72 hours prior to their travel date, confirming that they do not have COVID-19. Madeira nightlife venues, clubs and bars with terraces and outdoor spaces reopen from Monday, June 1st, at 50% capacity with strict safety precautions. Clubs can only be open until 2 am. Most shopping centres and shops reopen to the public, restaurants and bars can reopen from the 18th of May. International tourist travel should begin around the end of June, and many hotels and resorts hope to open in July. The beaches, parks, gardens are now open to the public and all road travel restrictions have been lifted.


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