For the months of August and September, new covid-19 measures for Madeira have been announced by the Regional Government. It all has to do with wearing face masks. All started yesterday in the Diario de Notícias, a leading newspaper in Portugal with a separate edition for Madeira. They announced that in August and September the use of a face mask in all public spaces of the island will be mandatory. The same rules would apply to the sister island of Porto Santo. They also introduced a new rule for people travelling to Madeira: everyone is offered a free covid-19 test upon arrival at the airport. That isn’t new. What is, is that you can refuse it, but if you do, you are put into quarantine for two weeks, in a hotel facility at your own expense. Makes sense to me. But back to the compulsory face masks.
Obviously, immediately after this news became public, Facebook exploded. Many people and notably foreign immigrants (yes, I know, they want to call themselves ex-pats but they are ordinary immigrants) started screaming murder about the loss of income from tourism this would bring. I even read somewhere that this would kill the island and whatnot. If you ask yourselves why I did not write a post about this, here is the reason. As always, it takes a little more time to gather all relevant information, and I want to avoid scaremongering at all cost. Also, fake news and sensationalism have no place on any website of mine.
shocked by the new covid-19 measures
So what does the new mandatory face mask rule entail in reality? It is quite simple and it makes sense. Very much so even. We have witnessed the events during the Rali da Calheta. It is a local car rally in the Council of Calheta. During the event, the public flocked together as if there is no covid-19 in the world. This shocked the health authorities, who immediately reminded the public to use masks and keep a distance of 2 metres. Obviously, it also gave them food for thought. This resulted in new covid-19 measures for the months of August and September.
why August and September?
August and September will see more tourists come to the island. Also, in August, we will see the famous Rali da Madeira, a classic car rally and the Madeira Wine Festival. And in September the island will celebrate the Festival da Flor, the flower festival. It was planned for May but had to be postponed for obvious reasons. Already, the Cortejo, the parade of the Flower Festival, has been cancelled completely, as it would bring too many people together at one time. All of these festivities are extremely important for the island and the island economy. Therefore, everyone will understand we don’t want to see them cancelled. But if the situation runs out of hand as it did in Calheta, extra covid-19 measures are needed to prevent an outbreak.
When first the authorities announced a general compulsory use of face masks I have wondered what such a seemingly draconic measure could entail exactly. Unfortunately, we missed the Press Conference on RTP-Madeira. Anyway, it would not have been easy to understand everything word for word when journalists all want to ask questions at once. Therefore, I decided to not join the general moaning but to sit down and wait for the fog to lift, which it usually does the next day. And so it did. I am very grateful to Miguel Laginha who has a Facebook page in Portuguese and English called This is Madeira Island and a website, next to news articles, promoting touristic activities, flights and holiday rentals under the same name. This morning, I found his article explaining the exact meaning of the new measures. And finally, it all came into perspective and proportion.
where do we wear them?
So where do we have to wear a mask?
in all indoor public spaces, also in restaurants and bars. But as soon as you sit down at your own table, you can take your mask off as easing and drinking wearing a mask would be too messy. When you get up to go to the bar or use the toilet: wear your mask again. Nothing too complicated to remember.
in all public outside spaces. So yes, that means the bar’s terrace as well. And the same rules apply that are in place for indoor spaces. So sit down at a table and take your mask off, start moving around and wear it.
The street is also a public place. And yes, the street is were you have to wear your mask as well. But there is also common sense. In summer, the streets in towns and many villages tend to get quite busy. Often, a 2-metres-distance is simply not feasible. That’s when you wear your mask. When you are doing a walk in Madeiras lush nature it is considered personal physical exercise, and then you are exempt from wearing a mask. Unless, of course, you walk in a large group when a mask is again compulsory. Common sense, again.
Do not do your running routine on a busy boulevard where crowds are strolling. Even if you are exempt from wearing a mask, you run a much greater risk, as do the strollers with you panting and puffing without a mask. Common sense. I can’t say it often enough. Though I am not supposed to say this, I am convinced that no policeman or -woman in his or her right mind would tell you off, let alone fine you if you are walking with an uncovered face in a deserted street.
on the beach
On the beach? No, the beach is exempt, but you have to maintain your distance of at least 2 metres. The beach crews have already prepared the beaches for this. And yes, again, use your common sense. When you start walking on a crowded beach to get some drinks, wear your mask to protect yourself and others. You have to wear it anyway when you order at the bar. At the risk of repeating myself: use your f*cking common sense.
turn it around
We can also turn the whole thing around. In principle, you wear your mask everywhere, but not when you are out in the nature, on the beach, jogging/running/sporting or in your car when it’s just you and your own people. This is putting it very roughly, so do read the rules about bars and restaurants and their terraces. It is not complicated and really not a problem. Unless you decide it is a problem. In that case, do us all a favour and stay at home. After all the noise of the last couple of days, the island government has issued some pictograms where you can understand the rules in just one look. Of course, they forgot the international versions, so I added a caption to make everything crystal clear.
much ado about nothing much
Conclusion: yesterday’s ‘expats-group-moan’ was what I already suspected: much ado about not very much. Use your common sense (I know I already said that), wear a mask in crowded spaces, indoors and outdoors, and respect the social distance of two metres minimum. We are enjoying a fantastic summer here on this island paradise, and we found the anti-covid measures very effective and not too intruding in our life. We would very much like to keep the island safe and healthy and large crowds do not combine with that without sensible covid-19 measures. So be a good lad (or girl) and wear your mask. Use your common sense and respect the health of others, even if you don’t care about your own.
We have witnessed this Island Government take quick and drastic measures if they feel the need arises. It’s all in your – and our – hands. Ignore the rules where you shouldn’t, and a new outbreak is there before you know it. Always remember you are doing this for your own protection, and for the protection of others against a very nasty and stubborn virus. It has already disrupted the lives of many. Use your common sense and do not add yours to those lives.
Enjoy your stay in paradise anyway.
Yes, there is a postscript. New information appears by the hour. There already were discussions about these new covid-19 measures being unconstitutional. Now, it came to my knowledge that the Portuguese national government has said that fining people for not wearing a mask has no legal fundament and is therefore illegal. On top of that, the former president of the Autonomous Region of Madeira Alberto João Jardim, who still has a lot of influence on the island, has said that the Regional government runs the risk of criminal prosecution for enforcing the use of masks. It may turn out that your common sense will be the most important and the most powerful of all covid-19 measures.