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Sintra shows creativity in providing support all across the board

Sintra shows creativity in providing support all across the board

COVID times require some ingenuity and understanding

Vaccination rollouts are going unevenly across Europe and parallel to them the COVID-19 waves keep on undulating. A good reminder comes from the Portuguese municipality of Sintra, which showed that residents and businesses still need ongoing social and economic support for as long as this unfortunate turn of events will last.

In January, medical centres unveiled a Drive Thru model of testing for coronavirus and in February, City Hall introduced a new programme called ‘Apoiar Rendas’, that is ‘rent support’, only this time one that is aimed at vulnerable small and medium enterprises.

The Drive Thru system

At the start of the year, coronavirus rates spiked considerably in Portugal and the country had to endure a lockdown, which is still ongoing at the time of publication, with a revision date set for the middle of March.

One notable thing, which was implemented in the municipality of Sintra, with the goal of boosting the diagnostic capacities of medical centres there while providing safety for residents and personnel was the introduction of the so-called Drive Thru model of testing.

Initially set up at the CUF Sintra Hospital and later also offered by a Unilab Mobile Tracking Center in Agualva-Cacém, this literally takes a page out of fast-food chains where those wishing to have the swab performed can just drive by the entrance and have one of the officials there take a sample for analysis.

The condition was to initially reserve a test through an app or by phone as this is also important when receiving the results, which are also delivered online, through an SMS or in the case of a positive result – by a phone call.

Rent support for SMEs

Likewise, on the social front, the local government was adamant that when it comes to being in a precarious situation this applies not only to individual residents and families but also to many of the city’s small business owners. Facing uncertainties and falling demands or production stoppage many opted for the chance to lay off workers temporarily thanks to governmental subsidies on offer.

Yet, this was not enough in the mid-term, since just like many residents there are businesses that need to rent the premises where they operate and those bills invariable kept on piling up. In fact, this support was extended even to large firms, as long as it was proven that they operated in a sector directly and negatively affected by lockdown measures.

The rental support provided cannot exceed the maximum limit of 40 thousand euros per company and the reference rental cost was taken to be as the rent paid in December 2020. Additionally, in order to receive the subsidy beneficiaries are obliged to maintain employment and not cease their primary activities.

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