A SMALL island has escaped the Covid pandemic and has vaccinated all its residents against the virus, with life already going back to normal.
Located hundreds of kilometres from continental Europe, the Portuguese island of Corvo has a crucial advantage in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic: its remoteness.
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With a population of around 400 people, Corvo appears to have escaped unscathed from the pandemic which has so far killed 2,676,327 people worldwide.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the remote island in the Azores has reported only one coronavirus case – a resident who travelled to mainland Europe for the Christmas holidays.
And by March 12, 322 people – about 85 per cent of the island’s population and 95 per cent of those eligible to receive shots – had already received a second dose of a Covid-19 jab thanks to a community vaccination campaign.
The island's only doctor, Antonio Salgado, 62, said: "There’s an atmosphere of celebration in Corvo. From now on, we will feel safe."
'WE FEEL SAFE'
Portugal decided to include all those aged over 16 in Corvo’s first phase of the vaccination rollout because of the island’s characteristics, such as the small size of its population and the fact it only has one health centre.
An outbreak on the 17-square-kilometre island – which has sheer cliffs running along the coast and a volcanic crater lake – would have been devastating as Corvo has only one ventilator and no hospital beds at all.
Gustavo Borges, Azores’ Covid-19 coordinator, told Publico newspaper he believed Corvo was the first place in Europe to carry out a “mass vaccination of the entire population.”
“Having 85 per cent of people vaccinated is a milestone,” he said.
Local health official Clelio Meneses said vaccinating the whole population was "the only responsible thing to do".
He explained that the small number of jabs needed to vaccinate all the residents would not affect rollouts elsewhere in the Azores.
During the pandemic, locals were worried that someone would visit the island and potentially cause the disease to spread.
Mayor Jose Manuel Silva said some of the residents wanted Corvo to be closed off due to fears of a "disastrous" and "very rapid" Covid outbreak in case visitors were infected with the virus.
Meanwhile, mainland Portugal faced a severe surge in coronavirus cases earlier this year which prompted the government to impose a strict lockdown in mid-January.
Lockdown restrictions in the country are being lifted from this week, with kindergartens, pre-schools and primary schools reopening yesterday and businesses such as hair salons, libraries and bookshops set to reopen their doors on April 5.
In total, Portugal reported 814,897 infections and 16,707 Covid-related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
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