„Why do the Azores make such problems to tourists who want to go there on vacation?” – I sometimes read in messages or on social media.
I share with you up-to-date information about the current situation in the Azores and I can see how you react differently to it. Some of you give up planned holidays in the Azores and decide to wait for a better moment. Some decide to fly and simply try to make their trip as good and as safe as possible. These two groups make up the majority. But there are also people who almost take offense at the Azores and me for having to undergo tests and for „all these restrictions” spoiling their trip.
„I was supposed to have a great vacation. But instead I’m just stressed, even though I haven’t left the country yet,” I hear many times. „The Azores invented those restrictions. They will deeply regret it, all tourists will turn away from them.”
For a long time I didn’t know how to relate to such comments. But at some point I figured everyone had their point of view. And maybe explaining what the health and logistics issues are in the Azores will allow some people to view the restrictions on the islands with understanding rather than with anger. And really enjoy their holidays in the Azores, because that’s what they are for! Therefore, when these restrictions and the state of calamity, and the state of alert on the islands were extended once again, I decided to write this article.
So here we go with the explanations.
There are 9 islands in the Azores. And there are 3 hospitals on these 9 islands.
At the beginning, facts. There are 9 islands in the Azores and only 3 hospitals in these 9 islands. Out of these 3 hospitals, only 2 are good for anything – one in Terceira and one in São Miguel. And I don’t know how many isolation rooms are in the hospital in São Miguel, but the hospital in Terceira is said to have 6.
Can you imagine? 58,000 inhabitants of the island and only 6 isolation rooms. Not to mention the fact that this hospital serves other islands as well. Sick people from other islands are transported to it by planes or helicopters. If the weather permits. If it doesn’t (which happens regularly in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean), they wait. With less and less hope that they will get help on time.
On the continent, if one hospital runs out of space, you can try to put patients in another hospital. And from the Azores, patients can be transported to Lisbon. 1500 km across the ocean. There is easier access to medicines and medical equipment on the continent. On the islands, if the supplies run out – we will again have a trip across the ocean.
There’s no need to say that there is a shortage of doctors, especially specialists. You wait to get a family doctor for years. Most specialists fly from Lisbon once a month. Even for private visits, which almost no one can afford, one can wait for months.
If the pandemic had really got here…
The Azores quickly closed almost all flights and introduced very strict restrictions for those who would go there. As a result, instead of thousands of infected, we had 146 infected people on all islands. Well, three islands (Flores, Corvo and Santa Maria) had no cases at all during that time!
If the pandemic had really got here, we wouldn’t have made it. There would be no chance. The Azores protected themselves by acting like the much-lauded New Zealand – by completely cutting off. The isolation of the Azores may have been their salvation or a curse. It would have been a curse if a pandemic had developed here as it developed on the European continent and in many other places in the world. We wouldn’t have had a chance. Fortunately, isolation turned out to be salvation, because the Azores were cut off. Thanks to this, it is safe here now.
I got so pissed off…
I watched the joint efforts of all islanders to combat the pandemic. And I got pissed off when a guy flew to the Azores and kicked up a row because he had to spend two weeks in quarantine in an extremely comfortable hotel with full board. (These were the rules then, and the hotel stay was paid by the Azorean government at that time, i.e. Azoreans’ taxes). He complained, inter alia, that he has to wash his socks himself. Literally.
I was pissed when a woman flew to the Azores a few days ago and kicked up a row because she had to stay in preventive isolation. She was sitting on the plane next to someone who tested positive, so she was instructed to stay in isolation by the local medical authorities. For the sake of security. After all, the virus can take up to 14 days to develop. And she made a fuss.
There are specific rules in the Azores and you have to respect these rules when traveling to the islands.
And I know, I really know that if someone travels, the restrictions in the Azores can be burdensome. But the island’s perspective is different from the continent’s one. Here, the only effective tool in the fight against the virus is to prevent it from spreading.
Hence the tests. Hence the preventive isolation. After all, each of us can catch the virus completely unknowingly. And completely unknowingly pass it to another person. And another one. And another one.
We have the situation that we have. And we must be aware of our responsibility for what we do. Aware that something could go wrong at any moment. This is new to all of us. We learn to live in a new reality. And we must learn to think not only about ourselves but also about those around us. The safety of all of us depends on each of us.
It’s safe in the Azores at the moment
The Azores have put in place good practices in tourism companies. And they have the „Clean & Safe Açores” mark confirming the good practices. They also introduced good practices on beaches and bathing areas. They don’t resign from the restrictions in force after arrival. All of that to ensure the greatest possible security for both residents and tourists.
The Azores were recognized as one of the safest places after the first wave of the pandemic (which is not over yet, but that’s another topic). It is thanks to the efforts of the government, residents – and tourists. Thanks to their respect for the local community and local norms.
Everyone has a choice
I know the Azores are calling. That you would like to leave your job for a week or two and fly to this paradise in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Everyone has a choice – one may fly or one may not fly. If you decide to fly – I understand and I wish you fantastic holidays! If you decide not to fly – I understand and I hope that in the not too distant future the world situation will normalize enough for you to be able to come to the Azores without any problem.
And if someone around you starts to wonder why restrictions are still in force in the Azores, even though a large part of the world is already working more or less normally – please refer them to this article. And then visit me on the Instagram and the Facebook for the latest photos and videos from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean! See you!