Carefully staged tourism plans to re-open Portugal’s Algarve to sunseekers have been blown apart by a dramatic surge in confirmed Covid-19 cases linked to an illegal party near Lagos earlier this month.
Officials confirmed yesterday there are now 90 confirmed cases arising from a gathering of up to 100 people at a June 7 party in Odiáxere on the western Algarve. Most of the confirmed cases (48) live in Lagos, a hotspot for Irish holidaymakers.
The outbreak has sparked a war of words between medics and tourism interests just as the region opens up again to visitors.
The doctors’ association, Ordem dos Médicos and an independent syndicate of medical representatives claim that the Portugal holiday mecca may have to shut down again temporarily if confirmed cases linked to the party continue to rise.
However, president of the Algarve health authority, Paulo Morgado, responded by saying: “I simply do not understand these catastrophic comments”, he said, adding that regional hospital capacity had not been stressed in any way by the outbreak.
In a statement about the incident, Lagos Council admitted the origin of the outbreak had “jeopardised the good work” the municipality had done up until now.
Local media reported that a birthday party which attracted up to 100 people from all over Portugal sparked the outbreak. Those organising the event told the venue no more than 20 people would be attending, Lagos Mayor Hugo Pereira told news agencies.
GNR police were called to the scene after the owners of the venue witnessed large numbers of revellers arriving and leaving the party.
Regional health delegate Ana Cristina Guerreiro said she hoped the event’s organisers will be held responsible.
“When Covid-19 patients are admitted to hospital, it means their condition is serious. They are aged 39 and 27,” she confirmed. "To hold a party with reportedly over 100 people, during a pandemic, when using masks and promoting social distancing has been talked about at length … I do hope these people are held accountable,” she said.
The Algarve’s health chief Paulo Morgado added that some of the revellers have voluntarily reported to health authorities to be tested. “We will not hold the people who attended the party accountable but those who organised the party. They should face consequences,” he said.
The Lagos Chamber says over 1,000 tests have now been carried out on those who may have come in contact with the Odiáxere partygoers.
Local Lagos businesses which closed to test their staff and disinfect their premises started reopening yesterday after their employees tested negative for Covid-19.