43 municipalities now at risk of not ‘moving forwards’ in Portugal’s slow deconfinement

Saturday’s Covid bulletin has been another one full of ‘good news’. Numbers in hospital fell by 42 on the previous day’s total, and are now down to just 342.

But there is always ‘bad news’ lurking – and today’s is the fact that there are now 43 municipalities where numbers are way over the government’s perceived ‘red lines’.

In this case it means they are all registering more than 120 cases per 100,000 of population.

One (Vila Franca do Campo) is actually registering 1,357 cases per 100,000.

These totals cannot be confused with severe illnesses. They are invariably ‘cases’ detected in PCR tests and then multiplied in order to make the municipality’s population reach 100,000 residents.  The people themselves may not even feel ill. In other words, these totals sound much more scary than they actually are. 

The formula also for coming to them ignores the size (per sq metre) of the municipality per head of population, as much as it puts no emphasis on the type of outbreak (ie if is it localised/ in one particular setting – like Portimão’s recent outbreak among construction workers, or Odemira’s among immigrants employed on agricultural explorations far from the ‘general population’).

Thus there will be a lot of ‘indignation’ next week when these 43 boroughs – four of which are in the Algarve (Aljezur, Portimão, Albufeira and Vila Real de Santo António) – hear their fate. Will they be ‘suspended’ as they are in whichever stage of deconfinement they are in, or will they be pushed backwards?

Right now, no-one can tell. But the mood in all municipalities concerned is grim.

Conversely, the overall picture appears to be getting progressively better.

Says tabloid Correio da Manhã today: “The evolution of the number of new cases is tending to stabilise on a national level” with corresponding ‘reduced pressure on health services’.

The latest DGS/ national health institute Dr Ricardo Jorge ‘report on red lines’ puts the national 14-day rolling average of new cases at 74 per 100,000 inhabitants.

What is ‘even better’ is that the highest incidence is in the 30-35 year age-bracket (a group that has barely felt serious effects from contracting Covid-19.

Says the report, this age bracket is showing 122 cases per 100,000 people, whereas the over-85s are showing just 36 cases per 100,000, “which shows a risk of infection very much below that of the population in general”.

By regions however the Algarve is still the area where the incidence of new cases is highest (even though this has fallen in the last week).

The incidence of new cases in the Algarve is 112 per 100,000 of population, followed by the Alentejo at 83 per 100,000, the north at 81, Lisbon and Vale de Tejo on 64 and the centre on 43.

Says the report, the country’s Rt (transmission) number seems to be on its way down. It is already below 1 and “considering the average value over the last five days” Portugal could be on course for a national incidence rating of 60 cases per 100,000 “within the next one to two months”.

As for variants, the British/ Kent variant is still the most prevalent in Portugal’s cases of infection (representing 82.9% of cases). The South African variant has a prevalence of 2.5%, while the Brazilian Manaus’ variant is residual on 0.4%.

Today’s numbers show 567 new cases of SARS-CoV-2, against 626 ‘recoveries’ (meaning people who may never have been ill but no longer test positive for fragments of the virus genome).

There have been two deaths, one in Lisbon, the other in the north.

Overall, there are now 24,628 active cases in Portugal which has a population of 10.2 million people. 

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