Iconic green tiled building in the center of Lagos, Portugal

COVID-19 in the Algarve - A local perspective

We’ve recently had a lot of our guests and friends enquiring about the real scope of the COVID-19 in Algarve situation. This was a clear follow up on United Kingdom’s recent decision to exclude Portugal from the “international air bridge”. A lot has been discussed in the media, where the biggest contention resides on the metrics used by the UK.

According to The Spectator, “Portugal has recorded an impressively low Covid-19 infection and death rate (with just 159 deaths per million people, compared to 652 in the UK), especially when compared to neighboring Spain (607 deaths per million people). The impact of the pandemic could have been far more severe in a country where nearly one in three people are aged over 65, and which has the lowest number of intensive care beds per capita in all of Europe.”

Portugal did see a rise in new infections, most of these in the area of the capital, Lisbon. As of today, this accounts for 50% of all the cases in Portugal.

André standing with Solo, the dog over a cliff on the Portuguese west coast, overlooking the ocean.
Empty beaches are a normal sight these days.

But if you look at the numbers of COVID-19 in Algarve, you’ll see that this region has 1.5% of the cases in the whole country.

It seems that Portugal’s diplomacy failed and now has to take responsibility for that failure.

The hard facts are that the Algarve relies heavily on Tourism. The unemployment rate in the region has risen by 200%. We’re already halfway through July, in an area that gets most of its visitors between May and September. One can truly say “winter is coming”. Most tourism dedicated businesses close then, depending on summer profits to survive. Needless to say, things don’t look promising.

I’m not here to focus on metrics, though. One can play with numbers the whole day, presenting statistics from completely different angles, to prove distinct things. I really want to provide a “on the ground” assessment of what I’ve experienced in the Algarve so far.

The community and businesses have responded well to the containment of COVID-19 in Algarve

Everywhere I roam to, is it the supermarket, governmental buildings, restaurants or any other kind of facility, I see a well-defined protocol, enforced in equal measure.

The community is also doing its share, using barriers and complying with the rules. Even social media groups, vocally advocate for restraint and following the protocol. And we know how polarising things can be on these platforms, right?

Bad behavior has been displayed mostly by visitors

The police of the party town of Albufeira has had their hands full with young foreign adults ignoring social distancing rules and getting silly drunk. Imagine 2400 Dutch students roaming wildly in the streets!

From my own walks in some city centers of Algarve, I’ve seen most locals wearing masks and applying the social distancing protocols. As for visitors, I’ve witnessed a lot of irresponsible behaviors, curbed by locals and the police.

Portuguese President of Republic Walking in Lagos, Algarve
The President of Portugal was a few days ago in Lagos. (Photo: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação)

The bottom line is, I’ve never seen my region so empty in the summer season.

It’s like being in an alternate reality, where the streets are mostly void, but the weather is hot and sunny. I’ve been enjoying the outdoors without the masses, and I don’t know personally anyone that has been infected. Even with Portugal’s high testing rate.

The Algarve is a place for the outdoor lovers, with a low populational density. When I look at the numbers and lifestyle in London for example, I can’t stop feeling that I’m in one of the safest places in the world.

I can’t really think of any place I’d rather be right now. Whatever you decide to do with this information, just promise me one thing. Please respect the social distancing rules and national protocols. After all, winter is coming, and it will be a long one.


  1. Christine Stiles

    We will come back!!! You guys are amazing!

  2. Volta do Mar Team

    Christine! Thanks for your kindness. You rock! We shall meet again! 🙂

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