The first difference I noticed, straight away, was that nearly every person I saw in our region of Leira was wearing a mask.
By: Adriana Daconceicao
Before Covid-19 reached Canada, my family booked plane tickets for Portugal. Our house was about to undergo some maintenance, so we decided to take the opportunity and travel together as a family. Due to the rapidly growing worldwide pandemic, and up until the day we left, my family was still unsure if travelling outside of Canada was safe. In the end, while still unsure, we decided to go on our vacation.
I was truly worried about how Portugal was handling the pandemic, and if they were doing better or worse than we were here in Canada. It took us two flights: the first to Germany, and after a brief layover, a second to Portugal. On both planes, a mask was required the entire trip – save when eating and drinking – and there were one or even two seats in between passengers.
After landing in Portugal, I found the rules were nearly identical. Unlike here (and Germany) a two-week quarantine wasn’t required but we still stayed relatively isolated, trying our best to social distance from others.
Once we arrived in Germany and went through the process of getting to our gate, the social distancing policies were made very clear: one-way paths, everyone wearing a mask, seats blocked off, and more. About every ten minutes, an announcement would be shared over the speakers in German and English reminding everyone of the social distancing requirements.
The first difference I noticed, straight away, was that nearly every person I saw in our region of Leira was wearing a mask. The second was that no matter where we were, a mask was required to enter any and every establishment. Moreover, every restaurant, and several stores, had what appeared to be government-issued hand sanitization stands. At the beach, there were even one-way paths marked off on the sand. It was 35-40 degrees celsius, and no one was complaining about wearing a mask. Every hour on the hour a message addressing COVID was played at the beach – loud enough that it could be heard even over the splashing coming from the ocean.
While connecting with family throughout our trip, we were informed that in some circumstances, a fine could be issued if an individual was caught out in public without a mask. Throughout the duration of our trip, we avoided heavily populated areas and consistently wore masks when not at home.
Travelling back home there were the same procedures in place. We had to wear our masks for 14+ hours, only removing them to drink and eat, for short periods of time.
When arriving back home, and going through customs, it was explained to us that we needed to go through a two week quarantine period; we were warned by airport officials that if we were caught outside our premises, or socializing with anyone outside our family, during this period that extremely high fines could be imposed.
Since our trip abroad, a lot has changed, COVID-wise, in B.C. There has been an increase in house parties and large get-togethers since the beginning of July. The statistics show that for the month of August (as of the 27th), the highest number of new cases in a day for Canada is 761. The cases have started to climb instead of remaining steady or decrease, unlike the number of new cases in Portugal, where the high for new cases has been ~397 for most of August. Given the current circumstances of B.C., I felt significantly safer in Portugal than I do here.