The official explained that the idea is to avoid unnecessary trips to health centres. "We intend to spread these branches to the rest of the country as quickly as possible," said Diogo Serras Lopes.

According to the protocol, the parish councils have to provide an adequate location for the installation of the counter, assume the costs arising from the operation and ensure the necessary human resources.

At the counter, citizens will be able to make an appointment, make a tele-consultation, renew prescriptions and consult examination results, while also having access to several other digital services. "It is a more efficient and faster way of contact between the citizen and his health professional".

Diogo Serras Lopes explained that these branches did not appear because of the covid-19 pandemic. "The SNS24 service happened despite the pandemic," he said, admitting, however, that the covid-19 served to reinforce the importance and accuracy of tele- health.

The government official said that the SNS24 branches are assumed as a “structuring” project, which will result in “efficiency and health gains”. "At the counters, users will be able to safely carry out a series of acts that have hitherto required travel to health centres," he concluded. The extension of these branches to the whole country still does not have "defined planning".