Update of june 12, 2020
Since this article was first published on March 5th, a lot has happened. Of course, with the first signs of covid-19 arriving on the Island, we all were very worried. If the virus would have had free range here, it would have ended in an uncontrollable disaster. Health care is fairly good here, but the size is limited and they obviously have very moderate means. That’s why the island locked down immediately, successfully fending off a serious outbreak. I have been writing, with weekly intervals roughly, about how things developed. You can read it all in my blog pages. The number of infections has been limited to a total of 90. Only two people have had to go to hospital, and only one of them has needed intensive care. All the others had mild symptoms only, likely due to the abundance of clean, fresh air here on Madeira. Now, things are gradually opening up again, and we can only hope that travellers won’t bring the virus back now that we are only 5 patients away from being corona-free once more. You can keep track of the developments on a special corona-statistics page. We insert the latest Health Service press conference, which is now held every week.
The original post of March 5, 2020
Internet and Social Media are a blessing to us in our modern times. Or are they? In the Netherlands, my native country we have a saying that goes “knowing everything won’t make you happy”. In the case of the Chinese Coronavirus outbreak, the COVID-19 as it is officially called now, this may well be the case. Of course, being aware of what’s going on in the world enables you to protect your safety, but on the other hand, the ever sensation-craving news media will not cease to tell you alarming stories, just to increase their own importance and profit. Time, I thought, to try and put things back into perspective. Let’s start by reassuring you: To date, Madeira is still free of the Coronavirus.
actual Corona risk
First of all, I think it may be important to realise the actual risk of a Corona infection. Madeira has, in a very early stage, taken a number of precautions to ensure the protection of the population against the coronavirus. You can read about that in my friend Tobi Hughes’ Madeira Island News, where you can find some relevant articles about the preparations here and here. As you will see, the Madeiran health authorities have taken prevention of a corona outbreak very seriously. There has been only one case of suspected corona infection. It was a 19-year old Madeiran student, who returned home from a visit to Milan. It turned out her illness was an ordinary flu. She was tested negative, and the results have been double-checked by the Lisbon Dr Ricardo Jorge Institute and were confirmed negative, which makes Madeira still free of the Coronavirus.
no direct access from corona infected areas
It is good to remember that Madeira, being an island with only air connections to the mainland, has no uncontrolled traffic like in countries that are linked by road to areas with possible corona infections. All flights from Italy to Porto Santo, Madeira’s sister island, have been cancelled, and there are no direct flights from other infected areas to the Madeira archipelago. And obviously, being an island (with no ferry to the mainland) there are no people simply driving from an infected area to Madeira, which makes it more difficult for the infection to spread to the island. If you are on Madeira and you have symptoms that need looking into, or if you simply need some reassurance, there is a special telephone number in place, the SRS24 service will help you at any time under number 800 24 24 20.
An extra concern is, of course, the people arriving by cruise ships. We all read or heard the stories of a couple of cruise ships that were denied entering a port due to a corona outbreak on board. Worrying, of course, so I have been checking out several cruise lines to see if they have taken any extra measures. And yes, as I expected, they have. One of the lines I checked is TUI, that has a number of cruise ships frequenting the harbour of Funchal. The (horribly named) Mein Schiff 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 as well as the AIDA ships have announced measures to ensure passengers’health and the measures are updated very frequently. For now, at least, roughly, people who have recently visited affected countries, are not allowed to board. I won’t bore you with all details, but for those who want to read more, here is some general information from Teller Reports concerning the protection policies. The only difference, really, with airlines bringing people to Madeira, is the duration of the stay of the passengers aboard the ship. Of course, the risk of transmitting a virus in case a passenger is infected is bigger than in a plane, but the chance of localising an infected passenger and isolating him or her is also bigger. And there is no denying that everyone travelling should really have the responsibility to not travel at all if they suspect being infected with the COVID-19 virus.
Finally, just to prove that the Madeirans are not that much concerned, I like to add that doing some more research on the internet to see how the Nelio Mendonça hospital in Funchal is continuing its preparations for an outbreak, resulted not in information about the Coronavirus, but on something that is of much more concern to the Madeirans: the famous and immensely popular Christiano Ronaldo’s mother suffering a stroke the day before yesterday.
As you may appreciate, Madeira continues to be a delightful holiday destination, and, with other destinations like Italy and the far East a likely no-go zone, for now, a more than worthy alternative. Especially, maybe, in a more rural zone like ours in the West of the island.
real-time Corona situation worldwide
One more thing: we found a new app showing real-time the state of the Coronavirus in the world. As you can see, Madeira – and other places – is indeed still free. Interesting to see how the situation is worldwide. Click on the image below to see what’s going on. The interactive page may be slow in loading.
Like before, Madeira free of Coronavirus: March 10, 2020 update
As I can see many people continue to read this article, I thought I should sit down and write an update on the happenings since it was first published. Fortunately, our piece of paradise is still free of Corona. There have been two Madeirans who fell ill after returning from a visit to Italy. They have been quarantined immediately, and, of course, they were tested immediately. As we learn from new information, published in English in the Madeira Island news here, thankfully they tested negative on the Coronavirus.
impressed by the Madeiran health authorities
We are very impressed by the diligence of the Madeiran Health service IASAÚDE- IP-RAM. They have really been very fast in assessing suspect cases, isolating them and testing them twice. The second tests were always assessed by the Instituto Ricardo Jorge in Lisbon. All four suspect cases turned out to be free of the Coronavirus. On top of that, very responsible measures are being taken, cancelling big manifestations that attract many visitors from overseas concentrate these visitors in a confined area. We have seen a Civil Protection exhibition cancelled, the famous Madeira Island Ultra Trail run MIUT is under reconsideration though it is scheduled only in another six weeks. Even the famous Madeiran Festival da Flor may well be cancelled.
Irresponsible and selfish behaviour by some
On an island that is doing its very best to keep safe and corona free, you can imagine the outrage by Madeiran residents, Portuguese and immigrants alike, when we heard that a Danish couple, that had been told to remain in quarantine after their child fell ill from the Coronavirus. The duration of the compulsory isolation is two weeks, the incubation period of the Coronavirus. They broke their confinement and went on holiday to Madeira, leaving their child in Denmark, after spending only one week in isolation, thus endangering their fellow air passengers and a whole island, really that works so hard on remaining safe and healthy. You can imagine how pleased and impressed we all were when we learned that the Danish health authorities informed their Portuguese counterparts about the situation. The Portuguese health authorities then warned the Madeira branch, the couple was located and now have to spend the incubation period isolated in their hotel room. I will officially forgive anyone who thinks (even aloud) ‘serves them right’. I have to add here, that the couple does not show any symptoms of carrying the Coronavirus, so maybe there will be no harm done after all. Still, this kind of selfishness and irresponsibility is unforgivable and really should be fined, or at least they should be charged with the extra costs caused to the already overstressed health services.
more good news
We have been amazed learning that people in the UK have been stock-piling loo paper. Facial masks we could have understood, but loo paper, really….. Fortunately, a good friend gave a private explanation: if one person sneezes in the UK, 100 others shit themselves. Forgive the pun. The good news is, no lack of loo paper here! Thanks, Tobi, for letting me use the image!
And on a lighter note, though the credibility may be limited, some of you will have a good laugh over this article describing one of Mr Trump’s complot theories.
Update 12 March
A fifth suspicious case was again found not to be infected with the virus. This means that covid-19 has still not been found on Madeira. It is interesting to see that the regional government is in consultation with the Danish authorities to see if it is possible to prosecute the Danish couple that was ignoring the two-week quarantine and just went on holiday.
In the meantime, new precautionary measures have also been announced. Here they are.
no more cruise ships allowed until the end of March
A total of 19 cruise ships were booked in the port of Funchal until the end of March 2020. In view of the problems encountered by other cruise ships, some of which have been placed in quarantine altogether or have had to cruise for days before being allowed to enter anywhere, Madeira no has decided not to allow any cruise ships to enter for the time being. A harsh measure, which will cost the island a lot of money, but which will considerably reduce the risk of the Coronavirus spreading to the island.
control of arriving air passengers
As of Monday – it will of course take time to set up the infrastructure – all incoming passengers at the airport will be scanned for fever.
MIUT 2020 cancelled
I wrote about it before: the MIUT, Madeira Island Ultra Trail, a very tough sports event that crosses the island lengthwise, has attracted many foreign participants for years. This year’s edition has been cancelled as a precaution. We won’t be surprised if the flower festival Festa da Flor doesn’t take place either, but that is still in the future.
schools and hospitals
The schools will remain open until the Easter holidays, after which things will be evaluated. further. A rather drastic measure has been taken in respect of nurses who have been in contact with suspicious cases. They had to stay in the hospital during the two days that a coronary test lasts until the results were known and turned out negative.
Update March 13, 2020
Since yesterday afternoon, some more precautions have been taken.
As of Monday, schools will close until at least the Easter break, after all. As a help to parents or caretakers, people who now have to stay home to look after their children will keep their salaries.
Night clubs and all places where larger numbers of people can gather will be closed as well. Fortunately, it is really not the nightlife that brings people to Madeira. Also, daycare centres will be closed to prevent the virus from spreading. Note that these really are precautions, there have not yet been confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in Madeira. Even cancelling church services is now considered. These measures may seem a little drastic in an island that hasn’t yet confirmed any cases of the virus, but it may be a little naive to think that no visitor coming to Madeira has been carrying the virus. Everyone who shows signs of infection is rushed into quarantine at a special unit of the Funchal central hospital, but so far all turned out to be negative on the covid-19.
I shall add more updates if there are any developments that may be of interest to my readers.
Madeira will certainly feel the fear of people that keeps them from travelling. It is quite understandable. people fear for their health and safety, and the media don’t help stuffing us with panicky reports. Still, we all know how these things go: anytime soon things can start to settle and people will pick up their lives again. With it, their wish to travel. And where better than to Madeira, still free of the Coronavirus and does so much for all of us to protect our health and safety. Should you be looking for a lovely place to spend your Madeira holiday, stop and do have a look at our welcoming and authentic house, away from it all!