A study by the National Health Institute Doutor Ricardo Jorge (INSA) has found that the Delta variant accounts for 75% of Covid-19 cases in the Algarve.
The new variant, which has been described as the most contagious so far, has seen a “galloping increase” in Portugal, having gone from accounting for just 4% of cases in May to 55.6% in June.
“It is expected that this variant will become dominant all over the country in the following weeks,” the institute says.
In the Algarve, the Delta variant has completely overshadowed the Alpha (Kent) variant, which now only accounts for 21% of new cases.
Indeed, health bosses in the Algarve had already suggested that the region’s Covid-19 spike could be related to the spread of the new variant, having sent hundreds of samples to the institute to be analysed.
According to the report, nearly 10,000 samples from over 100 laboratories, hospitals and institutions across the country were analysed.
Health Minister Marta Temido has admitted that the prevalence of the Delta variant in Portugal has left the country in a “very fragile situation”.
“We have known for some weeks that the prevalence of the Delta variant was a cause for concern,” she said, adding nonetheless that the country’s vaccination programme is limiting the number of cases among “the most vulnerable.”
José Artur Paiva, an ICU doctor from the Supporting Commission of the Intensive Care National Response to Covid-19, believes that the Delta variant’s increased transmissibility means that the 70% herd immunity target is no longer realistic. Instead, it will take around 85% of the population to be immune to achieve herd immunity, he told Lusa news agency.
Meanwhile, a new test which is able to detect whether someone is infected with the Delta variant is due to become available to the public at the country’s Unilabs laboratories “as soon as Friday or Monday”.
The PCR test will cost €100, with test results being shared not only with the person tested but also the National Health Institute Doutor Ricardo Jorge, Unilabs executive president Luís Menezes told TSF radio.