Portimão riverside, Ines Lopes

Covid outbreak among Algarve construction workers “a real problem”, says expert

Óscar Felgueiras, the mathematician involved in establishing the government’s slow plan for deconfinement, has explained why the outbreak of Covid-19 in Portimão’s construction sector is ‘a real problem’.

The bottom line is that taken as a region, the Algarve’s Rt number (the rate of transmission) is now most definitely over 1.

The country as a whole may be on 0.97, Mr Felgueiras explained. But this is a retrospective look at an average for the country over five days. On its own, the Algarve’s rate of transmission – almost solely because of this one ‘outbreak’ in Portimão – is now at around 1.19.

For the time being, the official word is that the construction workers and their families/ friends are being tested and put into isolation as quickly as possible.

As of yesterday, there were 89 positive cases.

Said Diário de Notícias last night, new cases are appearing at a rate of around 20 per day.

Testing ‘en-masse’ is being rolled out, not only in the construction sector, but in municipal services, taxi drivers, bakers, home-help services, security guards, fishermen, retailers etc. and these will continue for the next few days.

Portimão mayoress Isilda Gomes was on television last night, suggesting the outbreak was due to people not wearing their masks correctly/ not following health authority guidance.

According to Diário de Notícias, the municipality has said that “security forces will be controlling people in isolation” (meaning checking up that they are ‘at home’ and not going out).

But the situation is far from sorted. Says Óscar Felgueiras it is enough to cause “enormous impact” at a time when otherwise the region was experiencing “very low incidence rates, below the national average”.

It’s here that Expresso asked the loaded question: “Does it make sense to apply exceptional restrictions to regions with an Rt above 1?”. Mr Felgueiras reply was: “With the current situation there are regions, essentially between Odemira and Portimão, where it is justified at least not to advance with the measures of deconfinement”.

Bearing in mind shop-keepers, café and restaurant owners are literally counting down the hours until Monday morning when Portugal enters ‘stage two’ of its deconfinement process, this is the last thing anyone wants to hear.

For now, the country’s masterplan for reopening moves ahead with all regions in tow. But the Algarve’s proximity to a precipice that would mean ‘changing everything’ and going backwards, or at least, not forwards, cannot be underestimated.

According to latest DGS data for the region (delivered at 23.59 on April 1) there are 499 active cases in the Algarve, 484 of which are ‘at home’ (we are not told even if they have symptoms). Fifteen of the 499 people however are in hospital, six of whom are in intensive care.