After watching the pandemic spiral out of control in January, with several days of global leadership in new cases and deaths per million people and even a call for international help to treat its patients, Portugal now has one of the lowest contagion rates in Europe. .
The reduction in infections – Portugal fell from 16,432 cases on January 28 to 979 on Wednesday (3) – was achieved with the imposition of very restrictive containment.
Indeed in the current molds since January 22, the lockout still has no end date. Experts and the government itself believe the results still need attention.
Portuguese hospitals, however, are already more relieved. One of the main thermometers in a pandemic state, the number of hospital patients fell 73% between February 1 and March 3, from 6,775 to 1,827. This is the lowest value since October 28. .
The number of deaths also continues to decline. On January 31, the country recorded a record 303 deaths from the disease. On March 3, there were 41.
In combination with the lockdown, the country has also stepped up its immunization program.
The vaccination campaign, which started slowly and was overshadowed by complaints from people who had been poorly vaccinated, proceeded and established successive records of the doses applied.
So far, the country, which has a population of around 10 million, has already administered more than 885,000 doses of the vaccine.
About 618 thousand people (6.2% of the population) have already received the first dose and 266,716 (2.6%) have already received the full vaccination. Portugal is currently the fifth country in the European Union in terms of the number of doses applied.
According to a report by the National Institute of Health Dr Ricardo Jorge published last Friday (26), Portugal has stabilized its virus transmission rate (Rt) around 0.66 and 0.68. This represents the lowest result of the entire pandemic and one of the smallest in Europe.
At the latest public meeting between politicians and scientists from Infarmed (National Medicines and Health Products Authority) last week, experts pointed to the “very significant decline” but warned that it was too early to celebrate. , despite projections of falls in cases and hospitalizations.
“Nothing that is projected is acquired, it will depend on the ability to maintain the current trend of decreasing new cases. This trend depends on the measures currently implemented, their adoption by the population, as well as the preventive behavior of the population. and on the control of disease transmission. new variants of Sars-CoV-2, “said epidemiologist Baltzar Nunes, of the Dr. Ricardo Jorge Institute.
In government, the speech was also that it is still necessary to wait to resume activities, even if several affected sectors are pushing for the anticipation of the reopening.
The current state of emergency is valid until March 16, but the executive has already signaled that it will be renewed. The easing of the lockdown is not expected to take place until after Easter.
“It would be an illusion to think that we are in control of everything, that we can return, for example, to a lack of definition with levels of cases as high as today”, said Minister of Health Marta Temido, in an interview with Lusa. agency.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, Portugal is currently one of the countries in Europe with the most restrictions in place. In addition to suspending most of the commercial sector, the country has also closed its borders and banned flights from the UK and Brazil.
According to Prime Minister António Costa, the deconfination plan should not be presented until next week. The idea is that there will be a gradual reopening of the country, with priority for the return of children to school.
Pointed as a good example during the first wave of the pandemic, Portugal saw the epidemiological situation spiraling out of control in January. In the 31 days of this month, the country recorded 5,576 deaths from Covid-19. Between March and December 2020, there were 6,906.
The government was also reluctant to return to general detention. A sort of soft lockdown was put in place on January 15th. By keeping schools and universities open and with a few exceptions, the measure “did not gain momentum” and dissemination rates remained high.
Then, on January 22, there was an option for an extended foreclosure and face-to-face class disruption.
Experts say the explosion of new cases in January is linked to the slackening of traffic and distance measurements over the Christmas period.
While several other European countries have tightened restrictions during the holiday season, Portugal has chosen to relax the rules. Between December 23 and 26, no restrictions were placed on movement or the number of people gathered.
The increase in demand has left the National Health System (SNS), the public health system, very close to its limit. In order to give free rein to the victims of the pandemic, surgeries and non-emergency services have been canceled and professionals, beds and equipment from other regions have been relocated.
The Portuguese government ended up asking for help from other countries in the European Union. The main bottleneck in health care was the lack of health professionals. France and Germany have even sent small teams of doctors and nurses to strengthen Portuguese hospitals.
Transferring patients to another country does not need to be done.
Since the start of the pandemic, Portugal has recorded 806,626 cases and 16,430 deaths from Covid-19.