5 February 2022

Covid returns to prominence across much of the media, with reports that Portugal’s 14-day death rate is running at 60.7 deaths per million, three times the European threshold. Other news includes reports that Prime Minister António Costa will not invite members to the Cabinet to take office at the end of this month until the day before he informs President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. The President is reported to be critical of the “uncertainty” caused by the government decree that allows the decentralisation of social policies to be delayed until next January. Divisions within PAN, PS strategy for retaking control of Lisbon city council, the IL parliamentary leadership and the future of the Popular Party are also reported across the media.

Lusa and TSF note the “Red Lines” report from the Ricardo Jorge Institute and the Directorate-General for health states the number of deaths by Covid in Portugal increased by 16% to a rate of 60.7 deaths per million in 14 days, and now stands three times higher than the European threshold. RTP adds that this study concludes people infected with the Omicron variant have a 75% lower risk of hospital admission than those infected with the Delta variant, “regardless of age, gender, vaccination status and whether they had a previous infection”. Público focuses on the report’s claim that while there are signs the country may have reached peak Omicron, the current state of the pandemic means “there is a need to continue taking individual protection measures and to intensify the booster vaccination” programme. RTP quotes Miguel Prudêncio from the Institute of Molecular Medicine who says there is no cause for alarm at the moment with the new subvariant of Omicron that is circulating in the country.

CNN PT focuses on reports that to avoid leaks, Prime Minister António Costa will only contact his nominees to cabinet positions the day before he delivers the list to the President. Costa has already said his new government, which will take office on 23 or 24 February, will be smaller than the previous cabinet. 

DN notes that President Rebelo de Sousa has commented on the “unpredictability” of the pace of decentralisation as he promulgated a government decree that establishes “the possibility of extending until 1 January 2023 the deadline for the transfer of powers over social policy to local authorities”.

Expresso claims PS is now working hard to ensure it regains control of Lisbon city council and to oust Carlos Moedas in the belief the PSD mayor won the race without any real political support, suggesting they may seek to “pull the rug from under the mayor’s feet before the end of his mandate”.

CNN PT and DN report on infighting within the Party-Animals-Nature party (PAN), which lost three deputies in last Sunday’s election. Current leader Inês Sousa Real has reacted to the statement by former leader André Silva that he is “available to return to the leadership” of the party, stating “I don’t think there is any kind of circumstance that would lead me to have to resign”, adding that it is “incomprehensible that someone who left the party more than eight months ago, who left parliament halfway through his mandate” could return to a position of leadership. The matter will now be settled in a party congress forced on PAN by a ruling of the country’s constitutional court.

Expresso notes that Liberal Initiative (IL) have chosen the party’s founder Rodrigo Saraiva to serve as the leader of party’s group of eight parliamentary deputies. 

Público asks whether the Popular Party (CDS), which governed in coalition with Mário Soares, Francisco Sá Carneiro, Pinto Balsemão, Durão Barroso and Passos Coelho, but which no longer has any parliamentary representation, can return from the dead.

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