Opinion: An (un)expected crisis at the local level
THE CASE OF COVID19 IMPACT IN THE MUNICIPALITY OF AMADORA, PORTUGAL
The Municipality of Amadora with 24 square kilometers of area and 180,000 inhabitants was the first municipality in Portugal with COVID-19 registered cases which were imported from Italy (during Carnival holidays).
These cases, which were detected on February 27, 2020 in 2 schools, led to the immediate closure of these spaces by the Local Health Authority. The national government, regarding the increase of COVID-19 cases in the country, decreed the State of National Emergency for the period 19 March to 3 May and the State of Calamity from 4 to 31 May.
At local level, the municipality has always had a defined concerted action strategy, in the National Emergency/Calamity period, based on the excellent institutional relationship between the different stakeholders that have been working on the resilience issues for a long time. The municipality set up a COVID-19 Operations Center (COC), with the aim to:
- Mobilize necessary municipal resources;
- Ensure the identification of needs and vulnerabilities (security, safety, social, health);
- Ensure the coordination between the different levels of action: municipal-district-national;
- Discussion of measures and strategies to reduce the COVID-19 impacts;
The following entities are permanently in the COC (coordinated by the Mayor):
- Local Health Authority, which coordinates identification and monitoring strategy for COVID-19 cases;
- Municipal Civil Protection Service which ensures coordination between all health, safety, social and security entities;
- Amadora Volunteer Fire-fighters for safety COVID-19 procedures;
- Portuguese Red Cross and Local Social Department that guarantees the social and educational response to the community;
- Municipal Police that ensures support for security operations promoted by the Public Security Police as well as active surveillance of the municipality;
- Public Security Police guarantees and coordinates the permanence of public order, limitations of the public route and the monitoring of the establishment’s suspension.
The Municipality of Amadora currently has 753 COVID-19 cases and a set of relevant impacts, which came from the confinement and quarantine process (during the last 2 months):
- Unemployment increase. The claims for unemployment benefits have tripled. 200 applications in January increased to 640 in May;
- Distribution of meals to disadvantaged households: 11,777 more meals have been distributed than usual;
- Social and economic support for the elderly population;
- Closed schools which forced a television class regime (in public television channel);
- More situations of poverty and domestic violence;
- More situations of bankruptcy for small and medium-sized companies (percentage yet to be estimated);
In order to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 the municipality has introduced the following measures:
- Financial reinforcement of the Social and Economic Contingency Fund for the families and businesses most in need;
- Distribution of more than 700.000 pieces of protective equipment (masks, gloves) to the population, health professionals and social institutions;
- 23 messages sent to the population through the Early Warning System with recommendations from health authorities;
- Activation of the Municipal Emergency Plan (with actions coordinated on COC).
The steps that the municipality has taken in the past decade in the process of disaster risk reduction have been crucial for the city's response to COVID-19 crisis.
The whole process of collaboration between entities and their role in completing the SCORECARD (UNDRR tool - Making Cities Resilient), has proved to be a decisive asset. The information and discussion that was necessary to complete indicators related to public health and critical infrastructures has been considered in the management of the response to COVID-19 pandemic.
Luis Carvalho, Commander of Civil Protection Municipal Service in Amadora