Mandatory coronavirus screening causes outrage in Portugal

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In trying to make it mandatory to download a tracking application to contain the covid-19 epidemic, an unprecedented measure in Europe, the Portuguese government provoked protests and ignored the Brussels recommendations.

“I hate to be authoritarian, but we have to control this pandemic”, defended the head of government Antonio Costa on Thursday.

The socialist was surprised to announce on Wednesday that he would ask parliament to legislate “urgently” to make the tracking application launched in early September mandatory.

This app called “Stay Away Covid” helps prevent people who recently came across someone who tested positive for the new coronavirus.

So far, it has been lowered by about 1.7 million of Portugal’s 10 million inhabitants, which is insufficient to be effective, according to the government.

It is not certain whether the text, which is due to be voted on next Friday by deputies and Costa’s executive, a minority in the assembly, will be approved.

The right-wing opposition has already indicated that it can vote, but later refused to approve the part related to the screening request in the parliamentary committee.

In any case, this government’s will has already provoked an avalanche of criticism.

For the National Commission for Data Protection (CNPD), the mandatory nature of this request raises several problems at the level of “respect for private life” but also “at the ethical level”, its spokeswoman Clara Guerra explained to AFP.

Following the advice of the European Commission and the European Committee for Data Protection, which recommend the “voluntary” use of coronavirus case monitoring applications, CNPD argues that Portugal would be the first country to make it mandatory among the 55 states who acceded to the Council of Europe Data Protection Convention.

Portugal, which avoided being more affected by the first wave of the pandemic by isolating itself early, is currently facing a multiplication in the number of daily cases of covid-19, which on Friday reached a new record with 2,608 new infections in 24 hours.

Tracking applications, considered essential to control the spread of covid-19, have been launched in many countries, with very different results.

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