The armistice of August 14, 1945, which marked the end of the Second World War, was the cornerstone for the creation of seventy-four years of relative stabilization of Western Europe. The sustained technological, economic and social development that has taken place since then has retained in the collective mind of the peoples the idea of immutable prosperity, despite the incidence of some political, economic and financial crises that have hit the world hard, but which were quick nonetheless, except the 2008 crisis.
The first news reports about the emergence of a new coronavirus in Asia in late 2019 felt like a mere breeze coming from the East, but when the World Health Organization announced on March 11, 2020 that the outbreak had risen to the category of a pandemic, mankind suddenly became aware of the real size of the ditch the virus would dig in the nations of the so-called Western world.
The “year that turned the world upside down” suddenly changed drastically and irreversibly our way of life in the personal, family, social and professional spheres and the structures of the different economies of the old continent and, ultimately, threatened the survival of the democratic regimes themselves, which, equally unfounded, we grew used to take for granted.
We had 366 days of long, dark hours that, nevertheless, will go down in history on a positive note, in light of the resilience of people and companies in the Herculean battle for the control of the pandemic, protection of people and recovery of the economy. The articulated and effective manner how vaccines were researched, developed, produced and distributed are a clear example of the size of mankind’s global effort.
In Portugal, the selfless performance of the workers of the National Health Service, of the law enforcement and civil protection authorities and, in particular, of the thousands of entrepreneurs who enable the country to grow in a sustained manner and above the average European, deserves a very high note too.
Public officials had a huge responsibility to build innovative and effective response solutions. In this context, the Government of the Republic, the local authorities and the different entities of the State have effectively revolutionized their intervention, supporting the economy with 22 billion euros, negotiating financial recovery and transition packages worth EUR 57.9 billion to be applied until 2029, speeding up the digital transition and creating new social and labour protection mechanisms. Taken as a whole, these measures represent a true bridge over the abyss that the pandemic has opened and thanks to infrastructure of public policies that has allowed us to cross, as normally as possible, this sea of absolute exception.
Realistic optimism is, in this context, our best tool. In the vertigo of the end of history, a new start always awaits us. Provided with scientific knowledge, humanism and strategic vision, we have a unique opportunity to build new paradigms. At the dawn of this new time, when hope is rekindled, but there is still so much to do, let us be guided by the beautiful words of Sebastião da Gama. “Are we there already? We leave. We go. We are.”