Every region on mainland Portugal “on elevated virus risk”

Every region on mainland Portugal is now on “elevated risk” for transmission of SARS-CoV-2, according to maps compiled by ECDC (the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control).

After months on ‘orange’ (having never once managed ‘green’), Portugal’s latest 14-day rolling average of tests and results that have proved positive have moved the country into the red.

Red means a cumulative positive case rate of over 200 per 100,000 population and below 500, with a positivity rate of 4% or more.

The Azores and Madeira are now the only regions of Portugal that are not in the red, the former being ‘orange’, and Madeira running on ‘green’.

The ECDC maps explain the reasons behind Germany’s recent lifting of its outright ban on travel from Portugal but continuing to label the country as one with high incidence (click here); and France’s advice to its citizens today against travel to Portugal full stop (click here).

The news also comes as the Thursday bulletin brings the second consecutive day with new cases running over the 3,000-mark (this time the total is +3,269), and deaths at the highest number since last April (today’s total being nine).

Seven of the deaths were in the Lisbon/ Vale do Tejo region which is still accounting for the highest total of new cases due, say health authorities, to the rapid spread of the Delta variant.

Portugal’s active case count has increased to 41,863.

While the situation without doubt is a long way from ideal what no one seems to be pointing out is that only a fraction (a minute fraction) of new cases are ending up in hospital. On that basis, all the others should be translating into people with immunity against SARS-CoV-2, which means they will be complementing the vaccination programme and helping the country reach herd immunity that bit faster.

A few days ago, for example, there were 613 people in hospital. That number has since reduced to 599.

Epidemiologists explain this is because the people entering hospital are generally ‘stronger’, ‘younger’ and able to recover more quickly than the elderly that filled hospitals last winter.

The elderly are now by and large fully-vaccinated, thus even if they contract the virus, the understanding is they will not develop serious disease, and they will not die.

What however is invariably missing from daily Covid bulletins is information on the ages and general clinical conditions of the people who have died.

Today’s bulletin is no exception. We know nine people have died, but do not know what their states of physical health were before they entered hospital. We do not even know their ages.

Another aspect never referred to in daily Covid reports is the average number of deaths per day in Portugal generally. In the past, DGS health authorities has said roughly 250-300 people die every day in Portugal.

This is why even a ‘high number of deaths’ like today’s nine needs to be put into perspective.