Maria de Lurdes Castanheira, Source: Gonçalo Sousa

We are living an extraordinary period and our priority is to protect the populations of Góis from the coronavirus

We are living an extraordinary period and our priority is to protect the populations of Góis from the coronavirus

Interview with Maria de Lurdes Castanheira, Mayor of Góis, Portugal

Maria de Ludres de Oliveira Castanheira was born on 21 March 1964 in Coimbra. She Graduated in Social Work, in 1988, at the Instituto Superior de Serviço Social and attended graduate school in “Family and Social Systems”, at the Escola de Altos Estudos Miguel Torga, in Coimbra.

She worked at the Centro Regional de Segurança Social de Coimbra, performing the functions of Social Service Technician, in the Municipality of Góis, from 1989 to 1992. That same year, she started work at the Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Góis and, in 1994, was admitted to the Góis Town Hall, as a Social Worker. Castanheira was promoted, in April 2001, as Senior Social Service Technician.

Castanheira was appointed Assistant to the Mayor at the Municipality of Góis for the period January 1996 - December 2001. She was elected member of the Góis Town Hall in 2002 where she was responsabile for Education, Social Action and Culture.

Between May 2005 and October 2009, Castanheira worked as a Senior Social Service Technician, on the Góis Town Hall personnel map. She is the Mayor of Góis, elected on 11 October 2009; effective member of the General Assembly of the Associação Nacional de Municípios Portugueses and 2nd Secretary of the Bureau of the Coimbra District Assembly.

Góis offers a diversity of touristic resources, including  natural and cultural treasures. Photo by Góis  Municipality

Mayor Castanheira, please describe the picturesque municipality of Góis in a few sentences.

The municipality of Góis is located in the district of Coimbra, in the central region of Portugal. Four parishes compose its administrative organization: Alvares, Cadafaz and Colmeal, Góis (county seat) and Vila Nova do Ceira. It is characterized by a genuine natural landscape, a preserved cultural heritage, ancestral traditions and customs that remain present in the daily life of some mountain villages.

The water of these mountains flows to the river beaches, offering bathing so pure and refreshing it is impossible to resist. The landscape of the territory is ornamented by villages of white and schist houses.

This county provides a diversity of tourism resources, including a natural paradise and cultural treasure: geology, biodiversity, monuments, archaeology, history, gastronomy, handicrafts, folklore, tradition and the “know-how” of the local population.

How did the coronavirus pandemic affect the municipality and what measures did you take to support your fellow citizens?

The daily life in the municipality of Góis has changed significantly. The services were closed to the public and were adjusted to the new reality. Some workers adopted teleworking, taking advantage of new technologies; others work at different times, and we also created mirror teams.

Basic services, such as water supply, waste collection, cemeteries and civil protection have always been ensured. Sports and cultural activities, however, were suspended. The annual Book Fair, musical shows, exhibitions and the promotion of physical activity aimed at children and seniors had to be canceled.

Some of the implemented measures are:

  • The municipality, in order to resolve the closure of the town hall, informed the citizens, through Facebook, the municipality’s website and posters, that its services would be carried out exclusively through non-face-to-face means, providing a set of contacts and public disclosure links.
  • The Municipal Civil Protection Service disinfected public spaces. The municipality provided disinfectant material for the urban cleaning of the village. This action was carried out by the Permanent Intervention Team of the Voluntary Firefighters of Góis.
  • We provided support for institutions at the forefront of the fight, through the offering of various Personal Protection Equipment to the Private Institutions of Social Solidarity and protective suits to the Associação Humanitária de Bombeiros Voluntários de Góis.
  • The Municipality of Góis also meets weekly with the Private Institutions of Social Solidarity, registering the main needs and sending material kits (gloves, masks, disposable gowns, visors, alcoholic solution for disinfecting hands, caps and shoes protectors).
  • At a meeting of the Municipal Executive, it was decided to grant a subsidy to the four Private Institutions of Social Solidarity, the four Parish Councils and the Associação Humanitária de Bombeiros Voluntários de Góis, in the context of combating this pandemic.
  • The Municipality of Góis, in partnership with the Local Public Health Authority, arranged for COVID-19 tests to be carried out on 10 people who were in a situation of social isolation and in constant uncertainties related to symptoms. The transport was carried out by the Associação Humanitária de Bombeiros Voluntários de Góis.
  • The city conducted COVID-19 tests on employees and directors of the four Private Institutions of Social Solidarity, to the soldiers of the territorial Post of Góis of the Guarda Nacional Republicana, to postmen, to firefighters and some workers of the Town Hall who perform tasks of greater risk. In the future, more tests may be applied.
  • Information was provided to citizens, through the dissemination of information on Facebook and on the municipality’s website, keeping citizens informed of the measures adopted, as well as the support available at the municipal, regional and national level.
  • The municipality, with the parish councils, offered masks to the entire population of the county. Approval of the exemption from income tax, for three months was also granted to tour operators, bars, restaurants and campsites, with the possibility of renewal, according to the evolution of the situation related to the pandemic.
  • Reorganization of municipal equipment that is reopening, maintaining all safety and prevention measures was also carried out.

The municipality is implementing several social-oriented initiatives, please tell us more about the most important of them.

We are living an extraordinary period, since we were faced with the COVID-19 pandemic. This exceptional times forced us to take extraordinary measures, in which our immediate priority was, from the beginning, to protect the populations of the coronavirus.

Exceptional measures to support families in the municipality:

  • The campaign “Fique Em Casa a Autarquia Vai Até Si!” it consists of extraordinary support for isolated elderly people, people with disabilities, with reduced mobility, in prophylactic isolation, in quarantine, infected by the COVID-19 virus, who do not have a close family support network and who integrate households in a situation of economic vulnerability.
  • Requests for help are made to the Social Action Service: food, dispensing medical prescriptions, delivery of medication, scheduling tests, rations and other agricultural products. A support line that also includes psychosocial support, providing not only clarification to residents, but also with the aim of meeting the emotional and psychological needs and weaknesses of the population and professionals.
  • The delivery of bare necessities and medication is carried out by the volunteer firefighters of Góis. The delivery of food for animals and agricultural products is carried out by the parish councils.
  • The municipality of Góis has made available to students who do not have a computer and internet, within the scope of the Plano de Ensino à Distância (E@D), all laptops purchased for the Sala de Aula do Futuro, in partnership with the Agrupamento de Escolas de Góis. IT support is also provided by the technicians of the municipality.
  • In partnership with the Agrupamento de Escolas de Góis and the Direção-Geral dos Estabelecimentos Escolares (DGEsTE), the municipality is delivering food baskets to students that need support, following the law.
  • The Empresa Intermunicipal de Ambiente do Pinhal Interior (APIN) approved the application of the social fee in the months of February, March and April to all residents of the municipalities of Pinhal Interior. The financial impact resulting from this reduction in fees will be borne by each of the municipalities.

You are putting a lot of effort into maintaining and preserving the cultural heritage of the area. What are you planning in this regard?

Maintaining and preserving the cultural heritage of the territory is obviously one of the areas in which we focus our governance, within the field of tourism and culture. We are committed and determined to work to increase the value of the municipality, the population and their heritage.

Our plan predicts continuing to:

  • support the county’s cultural groups that revive the customs and traditions of the territory;
  • invest in the Aldeias do Xisto;
  • bet on the requalification and maintenance of river beaches;
  • requalify public spaces of remarkable historical and architectural value;
  • enhance and disclose cultural heritage;
  • make heritage education workshops available to younger audiences, as we preserve what we know and love.

There are many festivals throughout the summer in Góis. How do you plan to organize them?

In Góis there are three cultural moments during the summer that, due to their dimension, have deserved, in the context of the pandemic, a careful and very thoughtful reflection, since the protection of our populations is always our priority and concern.

I’m talking about the international art fair Góis Oroso Arte, in close partnership with the municipality of Oroso, in the region of Galicia, Spain; the traditional Festas do Concelho de Góis, which focus on promoting local and regional gastronomy; the Concentração Internacional de Motos de Góis, the second largest motorbike festival in our country.

I also highlight all the parties that, all over the county, make it possible to meet the natives, friends and family members of the villages that take advantage of the good weather and the holidays to get together and socialize.

Now having recovered the opportunity for activity and mobility of citizens, by obeying a set of rules and restrictions, we must rethink strategies, attitudes and other behaviors to follow in our daily life, at home, at work and in general society. We must remain cautious, aware that the epidemic is not over and that we cannot return to normal life. In fact, we will start over, but reconsidering all our actions.

How do you evaluate the initiative of a unified platform for European municipalities and its goal to keep European citizens informed about what is taking place in their cities? How the portal can be useful to you and to the citizens of Góis?

The initiative of a unified platform for European municipalities is interesting and useful. It shows the projects of each municipality and allows the little ones, as is the case of Góis, in a growing process of desertification and less known to the population in general, to introduce what they have to offer. It can be a way to appeal to a visit and to build a new life project in our county.

The European project is a unique integration project, which is characterized by pluralism, tolerance, justice, solidarity and non-discrimination between the different societies that constitute it.

A platform accessible to all citizens is a valuable initiative. It can become a privileged means of communication and dissemination of the plurality of projects that are developed by each community in the European Union.

What are some the main goals you are working towards in the near future to make Góis a better place to live in

Our work is centered in the municipality of Góis, in valuing the potential of all its parishes, in the best we have to offer, and, above all, in people and in what they represent for the future.

We are committed and determined to work intensively to continue to dignify the municipality and its citizens, presenting this rural territory as a space of opportunities. Here we believe that it is possible to reconcile well-being and proximity to nature, entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity and quality.

Betting on the realization of business projects, to boost employment, economic and business development, mainly among young people, are some of our main goals.

To find out more about Góis, visit the profile of the municipality




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