"In Uruguay the Government, citizens and companies united against coronavirus"
His parents emigrated from Coristanco to Montevideo, where the specialist is part of the Executive's crisis cabinet.
Costa da Morte exports talent, and sometimes they come from the same family. This is the case of the doctor specialized in infectious diseases, Jorge Facal, related to another internationally renowned Facal: Joseph. His grandparents were cousins, and Joseph ended up emigrating from Uruguay to Canada to become a minister in Quebec, it would not be surprising that Jorge could run a similar position in the future. At the moment, he is more or less the Uruguayan Fernando Simón, as he is one of the most visible faces of the crisis committee to manage the coronavirus pandemic in the Latin country. With some enviable data, Uruguay has become the mirror to look at for the rest of the nations of the world.
—Your family is from Coristanco. Since when have you been in Uruguay?
— Yes, my father and my mother are both from Coristanco, specifically from the parish of Oca. They knew each other from there, but they came separately to Uruguay. Here they met again and started as a couple. My father came in 1955 and my mother in 1957. I was born here, but my genes, my second nationality and my culture are Galician.
—How often do you come to Galicia?
—I have been going every year for 12 years. I visit my family and I move around Galicia and Coristanco as if it were my home.
—I understand that the pandemic has hindered your plans to come.
—Yes, I won’t travel this year. In 2021 I will not miss out going there. There you drink very well, and you eat great.
—How is the situation in Uruguay today?
— There is very good data. We have few people infected. In the four months that we have been with the pandemic, we added just over 1,300 in total. At the moment there are only two people in ICU and less than 200 active cases.
—"The biggest problem of the crisis?"
—At the moment, the major concern for us are the bordering countries. In Argentina there are 7,000 new cases per day. Then Brazil, with which we have a land border, also has a huge number. Here we have binational cities, so some people work on one side, live on the other, or cross to make transactions. There is no border structure, that's why new cases come in through there. The border is controlled, but it is very complicated. There are shippers/transporters/dispatchers that come and go daily.
—Which are the factors that have determined the success of your strategy?
—First of all, the union of wills and forces on the part of the Government, the citizens, the companies ... The whole country was united. Then, there was prompt action because we were seeing what was happening in Italy and Spain. Public activities were immediately suspended, borders were closed, all performances were eliminated, schools, shopping centers were closed ... There was a voluntary quarantine by the population, everyone who could stayed at home.
—The volume of tests carried out stands out.
—The testing capacity was expanded rapidly. Initially we only had one laboratory which had two hundred diagnostic kits and did thirty tests per day. Everything was centralized, public and private Institutions. An agreement was signed between the Republic, the University, the Ministry of Health and the Pasteur Institute of Montevideo to develop self-produced diagnostic kits. This allowed that when there was no supply anywhere, we could do up to 3000 daily tests. We went from having a single lab in March to having 22 by the end of May.
—How do you experience what is happening in Carballo from Uruguay?
I talk to my family from Galicia every week and they tell me that in Carballo people are beginning to move, that there is a lot of activity in bars, terraces ...I think that at a rural level the countryside people, surely take better care of themselves. It is very difficult to reach a balance between the health and the economic situation, no matter how much you want to prioritize health, sometimes there are economic emergencies that must be assisted. In Uruguay, the low demography, the geographical situation of the country and the general low number of cases were due to the strong and determined attitude since the beginning. I could not talk about what is convenient for Spain because it is a very large country, with very different realities.
"Are you one of those who believe there will be a stronger second wave or that this is something permanent?" "I think we're going to continue living like this for a long time." We have to learn to live with this, but with a variation of cases. In Uruguay we had days of any cases, less than one hundred and fifty active cases, and we thought we had won the battle, but the problem returns from the frontiers. "Do you think the arrival of a vaccine will be enough?" "It has been shown to be safe." Phase three is beginning to show that they are really effective and that they prevent infection. Then we have to know how long that protection lasts. It is possible that in 2021 we will have to mitigate the most important health and economic effects. The pandemic has been a worldwide surprise.
The success of the Facals, also in Canada
The academic and social success of Facal has its correspondence with Joseph Facal, a Canadian with the same family origin in the parish of Oca: «Yes, my grandfather and his grandfather were brothers. His grandfather emigrated to Uruguay, mine stayed in Galicia. From Uruguay he emigrated to Canada, where Joseph was born. I met his father, a surgeon, on one occasion when he returned to Uruguay and I have contact with him, I haven´t spoken with Joseph, but I have asked my family in Galicia for his contact to get in touch with him. His grandfather set up the Facal bar chain in Uruguay, which is still iconic in the country, although it no longer belongs to the family. Joseph is now 59 years old and has an extensive curriculum: university professor, director of numerous research papers, newspaper columnist and television analyst, and with a long political past: deputy in the Quebec National Assembly, president of the Treasury Council, and three times Minister.