A woman wearing a face mask walks on a street in Lisbon, Portugal, June 23, 2020. (Photo by Pedro Fiuza/Xinhua)

Portuguese residents suffering from travel restrictions – Community advisor

The Portuguese Community Councilor in Macau, Gilberto Camacho, told Lusa today that the pandemic is leaving many Portuguese homesick, due to travel restrictions, with some considering returning to the country.

The adviser explained that since the covid-19 pandemic arrived in the territory at the end of January 2020, travel to Portugal is conditioned, since the return to Macau, which imposed strong border restrictions to combat the spread of the virus, requires “to do a three-week quarantine” and “there are not always flights”.

Those who leave and cannot return to the territory risk “losing their jobs”, he pointed out, a situation that made many Portuguese unable to return to Portugal since the beginning of the pandemic, more than a year ago.

“It is very complicated to spend so long without seeing the family. There are people who have parents at some age, as is my case, or have sick family members, and would like to see them again,” said Gilberto Camacho, who replaced José Pereira Coutinho at the Council of Portuguese Communities (CCP), after he resigned from office on February 2.

The Macau-born computer engineer, who studied at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon and returned to the territory in 2012, appealed, however, to the calm of the Portuguese who live there.

“It is necessary to be realistic and know that in Portugal things are not famous. If they were no longer famous, they are less so now, [because] people are living in confinement”, he pointed out, contrasting the Portuguese situation with the situation in the territory, considered one of the safest places in the world in relation to the pandemic.

“We have to keep calm, because Macau is probably the best place to be in the world, because there has been no case [local] of covid-19 for over a year,” he said.

Macau has counted only 49 infections since the new coronavirus arrived in the territory, with no deaths from the disease to date.

According to the new adviser, the economic crisis will also have less affected the Portuguese living in Macau.

“I have former colleagues [in Portugal] who have lost their jobs. Now, in Macau, the Portuguese are doing well, except homesickness,” he said.

This week, the local newspaper Ponto Final reported that advisers elected by the Circle of China, Macau and Hong Kong sent a letter to the chief executive, Ho Iat Seng, at the end of March, guaranteeing loyalty to the Government and ensuring that they would do everything to keep the “stability and social peace” of the territory.

Camacho admitted to Lusa today that he signed the document, as did the other Macau advisers, Rita Santos and Armando Jesus, not remembering the date the letter was sent, but said the note’s content is related to the pandemic.

“The stability [that the councilors promised to guarantee] is in the sense of this situation that we live in, the pandemic. I luckily managed to keep my job, but there were people who lost their jobs in Macau, and we are closed here, unable to travel to the side none, except for the interior of China, “he said.

The advisor also declined to comment on the controversial attempt at censorship in Portuguese broadcaster, TDM, where several Portuguese journalists work, saying that “it is a very sensitive topic”.

“There is too much dust [in relation to this issue], but I think that the statements of our minister, Augusto Santos Silva, were sufficient,” he said, declining to comment further.

On March 23, Augusto Santos Silva told Lusa that the Government “expects” China to comply with the Basic Law of Macau, referring to the controversial directive that demands patriotism from Portuguese journalists working in the territory’s public broadcaster.

“This Basic Law is very clear in guaranteeing freedom of the press and, therefore, in the same way that Portugal scrupulously respects the Basic Law in Macau, Portugal hopes that the People’s Republic of China will also scrupulously respect the Basic Law in Macau, namely, between many other areas (…), in terms of press freedom, ”he said.

Gilberto Camacho was elected alternate in the last elections for the CCP, in 2015, having replaced José Pereira Coutinho after his resignation became effective, on February 3.

Lusa questioned the former adviser and deputy in the Macau Legislative Assembly about the reasons for the resignation, reported on Wednesday by Radio Macau, but received no response.

Counselor Rita Santos, who chairs the Regional Council for Asia and Oceania and is a member of the CCP’s permanent council, also did not answer the questions.

The Council of Portuguese Communities is the Government’s advisory body for policies relating to Portuguese communities abroad.

The last CCP elections, scheduled for 2020, have been postponed to 2021, because of the pandemic.