Experts on Portugal’s ‘virus turn-around’: lockdown needs to stay in place “for another month and a half”

In spite of all the ‘good news’ regarding transmission rates of Covid-19 in Portugal, experts are adamant: lockdown still needs to stay in place for another month and a half.

Say reports, “mathematical models determine that deconfinement can only take place after April 5”, in other words, after the Easter long-weekend.

The reason is purely due to numbers still in hospital.

Right now, there are 719 patients in intensive care units up and down the country, “when a number below 200 is necessary to deconfine in safety”. 

According to all the mathematical models, hospitals will only reach this ‘magic number’ in roughly a month and a half.

Talking to tabloid Correio da Manhã, mathematician Jorge Buescu whose models have been referred to throughout the pandemic explained that “it’s possible that by the end of the month (in 10 days time) an average of 1000 new cases (per day) could be reached, but hospitalisations present a major resistance to the downward trend”.

The university professor working out of the Nova Universidade de Lisboa forecasts a daily death toll of between 80-90 people by the end of February, but cannot be so specific when it comes to mathematical calculations for people in hospitals, as “every patient has his/ her own evolution”. 

That said, he’s ‘estimating’ that by the end of this month, there will be around 400 people still in ICUs (double the number considered ‘acceptable’ to signal deconfinement).

Jorge Buescu’s numbers tally very much with projections by epidemiologist Milton Severo of the university of Porto, who suggests Portugal needs another 46 days to halve the current number of seriously ill patients in ICUs.

While Jorge Buescu’s bottom line is that “extreme care” has to be taken with deconfinement (when it eventually comes)” and “at the minimum sign of alarm, we have to act straight away”, professor of epidemiology Manuel Carmo Gomes (an expert who will no longer be taking part in periodic meetings at Infarmed to gauge the evolution of the virus) has appeared slightly less reticent – laying down three broad provisos for lifting the country from lockdown:

He says there will have to be a daily consolidated average of less than 2000 new cases (the current average for the last seven days is above this, at 2,285 cases); the Rt rate will need to be below 1.1 (that was achieved last week), and there have to be less than 1,500 hospitalisations of which only 200 can be in ICUs (again, current numbers are vastly above this).

Doctors meantime, in the form of the General Medical Council, are ‘on board’ with the mathematical models, saying “it is essential to maintain confinement until the favourable evolution of epidemiological indicators permit reversion”.

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