Covid-19 State of Emergency updates: Further death in Algarve

Wednesday April 8:

 

  • There has been another death in the Algarve. Today’s press briefing has been backed by new figures showing a further 35 deaths in the last 24-hours (an increase of 10.1% on yesterday’s tally): one of these deaths was recorded in the Algarve.
  • The latest map showing Portugal’s situation can be seen here.
  • The more detailed map can be seen here – though since yesterday it has  stopped showing figures for deaths, so there is no clue which part of the Algarve suffered the latest fatality.
  • Talking to journalists today DGS health director Graça Freitas said that the ‘lethality percentage’ in the Algarve (3.19%) is in fact higher than elsewhere.
  • The lethality percentage for the population in general now is 2.9% (rising since yesterday). For the over-70s it has increased to 11.3%.
  • Tests are still taking their time. The press briefing heard that Portugal has the capacity to perform 11,000 tests per day, but hasn’t actually managed this. The best result so far came over a week ago when 9,100 tests were performed. Even so, the briefing heard from one journalist that people have been waiting up to nine days for the results of their tests.
  • The good news is that the number of people in intensive care has reduced dramatically, by 26 patients from yesterday.
  • More good news is that recoveries now are up to 196 patients – and that the number of new cases being confirmed remains at the low percentage of 5.6.
  • The overriding message however is that the country’s response has to “remain firm and determined”.

Tuesday April 7:

  • Latest figures from DGS health authorities point to a 6.1% increase in the number of new cases.
  • Portugal now officially has 12,442 people confirmed as infected with 99,730 suspected cases and another 4,442 awaiting test results.
  • To see the latest figures click here
  • To see further detail click here (this should show where in Algarve the new cases are though at time of writing this data will still now available).
  • The ‘bad news’ of the day is that the ‘lethality percentage’ (the number of people in every 100 patients that die) has increased to 2.8%.
  • This means deaths increased by more than double yesterday’s total (of just 16), representing an 11% day-on-day increase.
  • ‘Good news’ however is that the number of patients entering intensive care is suddenly well down. Only one new patient was admitted to intensive care yesterday.
  • Also good news is that recoveries are up by another 44 patients (meaning that in the last three days, the recovery tally has ‘almost tripled’, says Expresso).
  • Notwithstanding these positive developments, President Marcelo has stressed that there will be no let up in containment measures this month. It’s as close to saying Portugal’s State of Emergency will be renewed on April 17 as we have got.
  • President Marcelo was talking to Antena 1 radio station. His actual words were: “Right now there cannot be a decompression during the month of April. We need to know if the data of recent days is consistent; if we have reached the so-called downward plateau – and how the situation will be at the end of the month. During this renewal of the State of Emergency, the efforts of the Portuguese people are very important. They make all the difference to results”.
  • Today’s press briefing on the latest numbers stressed the importance of people maintaining measures of social distancing etc. Said Diogo Cruz, sub-director of health: “We ask for prudence. This is still an important phase and we do not know what will come tomorrow”.
  • Questions from the floor were particularly concerned with deaths in old people’s homes in the north.

Monday April 6: 

  • New figures for today can be seen in simple form here
  • And in detail here
  • There are discrepancies in numbers here and there. For example the 229 cases in the Algarve on one map do not correspond with the totals within the detailed map. But it’s almost certainly a technical hitch that will ‘catch up’ over the course of the day.
  • Infections have increased, says the data, by 4% on yesterday. This has to be weighed against the logistical issues of actually performing tests. In other words, infections are almost certainly higher.
  • Deaths though increased by less than normal: just 16 in the last 24-hours, while the number of people pronounced recovered has ‘doubled’ to 140.
  • Nevertheless the message from authorities is that measures of containment (ie the country’s lockdown and all that goes with it) are working and ‘should be maintained’, for now at least.
  • There is definitely the ‘feeling in the air’ though that the State of Emergency is easing towards some kind of ‘opening up’ in the not-too-distant future. This can be seen in the daily press briefings where almost as soon as journalists are allowed to start their questions, the news programmes move on to ‘other matters’…
  • Interesting today was the fact that for the first time in the press briefings a nutritionist was given the floor to emphasise the need for healthy eating to boost immunity.
  • The number of people who have recovered from bad cases of the virus has also ‘doubled’ in 24-hours.
  • The briefing also referred to the launch of a new initiative “Cuida de Todos Nós” seeking volunteers to help in old people’s homes. Anyone interested can apply here
  • Much was said about the new thinking on the use of face masks (click here). Indeed the medical fraternity is now said to be ‘demanding clear advice’ from the government, which says it is waiting for clear advice from the World Health Organisation.

Sunday April 5: New deaths in Algarve as infections move west

  • New DGS health authority figures released at midday show a 10.9% increase in the number of deaths in the last 24-hours, bringing the national total since January 1 to 295.
  • Of the new deaths two were registered in the Algarve. Following the ‘suspension’ of detailed daily breakdowns by regional health authority ARS Algarve it was initially unclear where the deaths were recorded or in which boroughs the victims lived. This has now been updated by central sources. The deaths were of two 80-plus year-olds in the Vila Real de Santo António area. But what is clear yesterday’s briefing is that infections are creeping westwards. There are now three cases officially recorded in Lagos – one of the few boroughs that up till now had registered no cases (see here). If one clicks on the ‘blue spots’ in each borough, it becomes clear how many cases have been flagged in each. Albufeira remains the worst affected borough with 40 cases, followed by Faro (37), Loulé (33).
  • With 29 deaths since yesterday, the ‘lethality percentage’ generally has increased to 2.6%, rising to 10.6% in the over-70s.
  • The number of people entering hospitals has also reached a new high, health minister Marta Temido explained in the lunchtime press briefing. “We need to stress that hospitals must be reserved for serious and critical cases”, she said. Everyone else must be content to weather the virus from their homes, in articulation when necessary with health authorities via LinhaSaúde24 (tel 808242424).
  • 1,084 people are currently being treated for Covid-19 in Portuguese hospitals, of which 267 are in intensive care. 
  • For the ‘map of the country’ in terms of numbers click here
  • Referring back to data published yesterday, it’s clear that the majority of deaths in the last 24 hours were in the over-80 age group (20), with three being recorded in those aged between 60-69, and six in 70-79-year-olds..
  • Lisbon is the borough with the ‘most number of confirmed cases’ (681), slightly ahead of Porto on 660. 
  • Health minister Marta Temido stressed how much new equipment – particularly ventilators and ICU monitors – has been either purchased or offered by way of donations. In the space of little more than a month the country has ‘doubled’ its capacity of ventilators, and equipment is constantly arriving. A new shipment of 20 tons of supplies arrived in Lisbon today, from China, while others are programmed through April into May. 

Saturday April 4:

  • The best news coming out of today’s press briefing is that ‘secondary infections are down to 1.8’. This means that  anyone unlucky enough to contract the virus is not passing it onto more than two people. “This is considerably less than before”, health minister Marta Temido told journalists who were faced with interpreting yet more deaths and more infections.
  • Again, the ‘bad news’ has some ‘positive indications’: the number of deaths from Thursday to Friday increased by 22, which translates into an increase of ‘only’ 6.5%. Every death is lamentable, said the health minister, but for authorities focused on reducing the effects of this pandemic in Portugal, the daily increase is showing, without doubt, that the draconian measures enforced are bringing results.
  • Portugal’s ‘lethality percentage’ for the population in general remains at 2.5% – considerably lower than neighbouring Spain (9.3%), than France (10.1%), UK (9.4%) and Italy (12.3%). The map giving this information can still be found via this link.
  • Deaths in the Algarve are up to five, but the death registered in the Alentejo yesterday has been ‘removed’ from the official list as it was finally concluded that the patient had died from causes other than the virus.
  • The latest figures can be consulted here
  • The number of patients who have recovered from treatment in hospital has increased to 76.
  • Almost 87% of positive cases are being ‘treated’ at home.
  • Of the 10.2% of those ill enough to be admitted to hospital, 261 are in intensive care units, representing an increase in numbers of six from yesterday.

 

Friday April 3: 

  • 9.4% increase in infections (meaning 852 more people have been diagnosed with the virus since yesterday, bringing national total so far to 9,886)
  • 17.7% increase in deaths since yesterday. This is the largest increase in deaths so far, bringing totals to 246.
  • One of deaths was in the Alentejo – the region’s first in this pandemic.
  • Hospital numbers have only slightly increased – from 1,042 to 1,058.
  • Numbers in intensive care have increased by five to 245.
  • 74,377 cases remain ‘suspected of having the virus’ of which 5,392 are awaiting test results. Over 59,000 people have so far registered negative for the coronavirus.
  • Regions of the north and Lisbon remain the worst affected (click here for map)
  • Of the 246 deaths so far, 156 have been in people over the age of 80, 55 have been in people over the age of 70, 21 have been in over-60s, nine have registered in people aged between 50-59, and two have been registered in patients aged between 40-49.
  • As press briefings go this was not a very positive one: yes, the percentage number of infections are well down on ‘the early days’, but the number of deaths continues to rise.
  • The percentage of lethality overall is ‘not bad’ (in comparison with other countries) at 2.5% but it is at a dizzying rate now for the over-70s: 10.2%
  • As all the authorities keep stressing, the message given today by secretary of state António Lacerda Sales was: This is ‘a critical month’, and we ‘cannot relax our guard on the only defence (available) which is social contact’.

Thursday April 2

  • It’s the best of today’s good news, highlighted clearly by the diagram above created by Diário de Notícias.
  • “Very worrying” explained SIC televison news nonetheless are the numbers of infected patients needing hospital treatment. These have risen in just 24-hours by 316.
  • That translates into 1,042 people in hospital battling the effects of Covid-19
  • 240 of these patients are in intensive care, 10 more than yesterday.
  • Total numbers of infected have increased by 783 to 9,034 (an increase of 9.5%)
  • Another 4,958 people are awaiting the results of tests.
  • 52,903 cases have not yet been confirmed.
  • Numbers in the Algarve and Alentejo continue to rise, but not dramatically. There have been no further deaths in the Algarve for some days, and none at all in the Alentejo.
  • The next bit of ‘good news’ is that patients deemed fully-recovered now number 68.
  • For a look at national numbers in map form click here
  • For a look at regional numbers in map form click here
  • With offers of much-needed medical equipment and ventilators being announced all the time – many of them already received – the reality is that 1,124 medical professionals have been infected with the virus – 206 of them doctors, 282 nurses and the rest ‘other professionals’.
  • Talking to journalists at the regular lunchtime press briefing, DGS health director Graça Freitas stressed: “We will only know when we have reached the peak when we start to go down” in terms of numbers reaching hospital.
  • But the final ‘good news of the day’ has to be from the interactive map produced by the World Health Organisation. It shows Portugal’s overall percentage of ‘lethality’ in this pandemic (ie how many people in every 100 that have died) at 2.3%. That compares to Spain’s 9.1%, Italy’s 11.9% and even the UK’s 8.6%.
  • The map can be consulted via Expresso: click here

Wednesday April 1

  • The good news of the day is that the curve in the number of daily cases is slowly reducing. Today’s press briefing heard that there was ‘only’ an 11% increase in the number of cases yesterday. Sunday to Monday saw the lowest increase of all (just 7.5%). It is certainly looking like Portugal’s ‘containment measures’ due to be extended for another two weeks through Easter are starting to show positive results.
  • That said, the number of deaths registered in the last 24 hours is up on yesterday, with 27 patients having lost their lives (an increase of 16.9%).
  • Today’s ‘situation report’ can be seen here
  • The number of people interned in hospitals is also ‘up’ quite dramatically to 727, of which 230 are battling for life in intensive care.
  • The dismal ‘percentages of lethality’ are up too: to 2.3% in general and 9.1% in the over-70s.
  • Numbers of infected have increased in every region of the country, with DGS health authority data still not registering the third death in the Algarve.

Tuesday March 31

  • Seven doctors and one nurse are among the 188 people now battling for life in intensive care units in Porto and Lisbon (see more details below).
  • Numbers of infected are up by 16.1% to 7,443, with over 52,000 suspected cases – an increase of 17.8%.
  • Deaths to have increased by 14% to 160, representing 20 new deaths over the last 24 hours.
  • Testing in wide scale is now going ahead, particularly in old people’s homes throughout the country. The ‘good news’ here is that the tests have been produced ‘in Portugal’ reducing the need for dependence on outside sources. It’s a huge operation, starting in Lisbon, Aveiro, Évora and Guarda and extending to the borough’s of Loulé and Portimão where the Algarve’s first cases were registered. Said labour minister Ana Mendes Godinho, the plan is to start by testing everyone working within the homes (these being people who potentially could be vehicles of infection as they enter and leave work everyday) as well as all those showing symptoms.
  • Regarding the medical personnel in ICU care today, nurses syndicate president José Correia Azevedo explains four of the doctors are in Porto’s São João hospital, one is in Hospital de Santo António, and two – a married couple – are in Lisbon’s Curry Cabral. The nurse too is in Curry Cabral.
  • The issue of medical staff being constantly at risk due to a lack of necessary protective equipment getting through remains current, with Correia Azevedo reiterating the intention of his syndicate to advance with an injunction (click here).
  • Good news? The best coming out of today’s press briefing was the story of a 93-year-old woman from Lisbon admitted with ‘serious pneumonia’ and testing positive for the virus who has now made a full recovery and returned home to her husband. Other positive aspects are the constant arrivals/ deliveries of medical equipment and government initiatives to try and protect the most vulnerable, including victims of domestic violence. The overriding message of the day, however, was that “we cannot relax our guard”.
  • For the official list of figures (click here). There are ‘anomalies’, for example, deaths in the Algarve are not 2 but 3, but these usually iron out over subsequent days as information trickles in.

Monday March 30

  • As thousands of tests go ahead in old people’s homes today, we learn that numbers battling for their lives in intensive care units throughout the country are up by another 21 since yesterday to 164.
  • 571 people are now being treated in hospitals, roughly 200 more than recorded before the weekend.
  • Deaths are up to 140, an increase of 17.6% on yesterday.
  • Suspected cases are up 16% to 44,206.
  • Secretary of State for health António Lacerda Sales told today’s press briefing: “It is two weeks since we closed the schools. We have to keep this work (of enforced isolation) going because this virus is not letting go. Staying at home means saving lives“.
  • The press briefing detailed the amount of tests and equipment due to arrive this week as the country continues to battle the outbreak (66,000 further testing kits, 5.2 million surgical masks, 1.2 million respirators and “other equipment like gowns and boots”)
  • For further details on numbers click here
  • Público stresses figures reported today show the lowest increase in new cases since the lockdown.
  • 853 health professionals have been infected by the virus so far.
  • Pregnant women are now being given priority for testing.
  • Diabetics heard that they are now among the group that shows “the worst complications” of infection.

Sunday March 29

With the latest press briefing on steadily rising numbers, news has come through of the death of a 14-year-old boy from Ovar who reportedly suffered from an auto-immune condition.

Say reports, the child died early this morning.

He was admitted to the Hospital de São Sebastião in Santa Maria da Feira yesterday (Saturday).

Mayor of Ovar Salvador Malheiro told reporters the child “had not been confirmed as having (new coronavirus) infection but after being taken into hospital and being tested, the test came back as positive. He did already have health problems”.

Noticiasaominuto describes those problems as psoriasis, an auto-immune skin condition.

Answering questions today, both health minister Marta Temido and DGS health director Graça Freitas said it was much too soon to say that the child had died specifically from the virus, as his clinical situation was ‘complex’.

Further investigation into the case will be going ahead and for now the boy’s death has not been included in the daily update, showing a total of 119 deaths and a further 792 people who have tested positive.

The DGS figures have already been uploaded onto their site and can be seen here.

The ‘worst affected areas’ remain the north and those around Lisbon, but numbers are creeping up everywhere, with the Algarve now registering 108 positive cases (as well as the two deaths that have taken place), and the Alentejo showing 41.

Over 5,500 people are currently awaiting the results of tests, while the numbers being treated in hospital (indicating patients too seriously ill to recover from the virus ‘at home’) is up to 486 – 138 of which are in intensive care.

The so called ‘percentage of lethality’ of the virus overall is currently pegged at 2%, but rises now to 8.1% in the over-70s.

Yesterday the ‘percentage of lethality’ for the over-70s was given at 7.9%.

In other words, the risk to the elderly is becoming more acute, hence authorities’ warnings to the general public to comply with the ‘State of Emergency’ measures of self-isolation being so important.

Much of today’s press briefing was given over to advice to all those caring for the elderly within the community to bring in strict rules to ensure their safety.

Meantime the mayor of Ovar – the area still covered by a ‘State of Calamity’ due to the high number of cases within the borough – has reminded reporters that the effects lockdown imposed 11 days ago won’t be seen for some time yet, bearing in mind positive cases take two to three weeks to ’emerge’. He stressed that he thinks positive cases will “increase a great deal” as testing continues, and repeated requests for help from the health ministry.

Saturday March 28:

  • Presenting today’s update health minister Marta Temido stressed that the lethality percentage in the over-70s (the people most affected by the novel coronavirus) in Portugal has reached 7.9%.
  • 24 further deaths have been recorded in the last 24-hours, bringing the total number so far to 100.
  • Today’s press briefing heard the relatively good news, however, that the ‘stay at home’ policy is working: the curve (of new cases needing hospital treatment) is gently flattening, sending projections for the country’s ‘peak’ further and further into May.
  • There is no room for complacency nonetheless: the number of infectious cases is at 5,170 – 902 more than were registered yesterday.
  • Of those new cases, there will be ‘many more people who have been infected’ now awaiting the results of tests.
  • The number of people awaiting the results of tests was put at 4,938.
  • 89% of cases are being treated within their own homes.
  • 89 people however are now in intensive care.
  • Figures for the various regions have been uploaded onto the DGS health authority site (click here).
  • The north is the area worst affected, but what appears not to have been picked up at the briefing was the fact that the second death in the Algarve (see below) is still not part of national statistics, though it has been included within today’s update by ARS Algarve (click here)
  • Both Marta Temido and the director of DGS Graça Freitas stressed the necessity this weekend of citizens remaining ‘at home’. “The number of patients we will have depends on all of us”, said the minister. “This has to be a different kind of Easter for all of us so that we can return to being together once again”.

Friday March 27: Portimão teacher dies of Covid-19 infection

  • A male mathematics teacher at Portimão’s Escola Secundária Manuel Teixeira Gomes has become the Algarve’s second fatality as a result of Covid-19. Named as Manuel Magalhães, he has been described by some media sources as a colleague of the teacher who returned from holiday in Italy after Carnival break becoming one of the first registered infections in the region. (See separate story for more details.) Mr Magalhães is described as in his 60s and a resident of Lagoa. Some sources suggest he had “previous cardiac problems”.
  • New figures out today show the number of deaths has increase to 76, with another 20% spike in infections bringing numbers of those proving positive to date up to 4,268.
  • Infections in both the Algarve and Alentejo continue to rise. The former now registering 99 people proving positive with the virus, the latter 30. Further breakdown of areas shows that in the Algarve Monchique and Olhão have now joined the affected municipalities of Faro, Loulé, Albufeira, Tavira, Vila Real de Santo António, Portimão, Silves and Lagoa. Strangely, DGS statistics showed yesterday that there were four cases of the virus in Lagos. Today, Lagos does not appear on the list of boroughs with confirmed cases.
  • 71 people are now battling for their lives in intensive care, while 354 are interned in various hospitals.
  • Today’s press conference saw focus very much on the way this virus is cutting a swathe through old people’s homes. DGS director Graça Freitas said it is up to each and every area that has an old people’s home to devise measures that will protect occupants. Prevention is absolutely fundamental.
  • Old people’s homes in the north have shown alarming rates of infection. In one, in Vila Real, 99 people (this includes many of the care staff themselves) have proved positive for the virus. As a result, mayor of Porto Rui Moreira has announced that all those living and working in care homes throughout the city will start to be compulsorily tested.
  • As preventive measures slow the spread of the virus, projections for when Portugal will hit its peak are being constantly revised. Ms Freitas said today that authorities are now not expecting the peak before May. She told reporters: “We have been advised by our mathematicians that the peak won’t be an instant moment in time. There will be a plateau of some weeks as we know now that this illness lasts a very long time. We will not reach ‘day x’ and start straight away to (see numbers) go down”.
    • According to today’s numbers, the ‘death rate’ among cases in Portugal stands at 1.7%.
  • Meantime municipalities up and down the country are involved in mass-disinfection operations, appealing to citizens to ‘stay out of the way’ as these go ahead.

Thursday March 26:

  • Braced for a marked acceleration in cases as the country enters ‘the most complicated phase of the pandemic (that of ‘mitigation’ due to the virus now in clear transmission throughout the community), doctors have been given the green-light to treat patients worst-affected with malaria, HIV and Ebola anti-virals. The efficacy of these medications is still under investigation, but with the number of infections rising as testing becomes more effective, DGS health authorities have decided benefits outweigh the risks. The medicines now approved for ‘worst case scenarios’ are Lopinavir/Ritonavir (normally used for HIV cases), Remdesivir (Ebola) and chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine (malaria)
  • Deaths are up again – but still nothing like other European countries. The count from yesterday has risen by 17, from 43 to 60.
  • Infections too (almost certainly due to the marked increase in testing) are up to 3,544 (from yesterday’s 2,995), an increase of 18.3%-4
  • Recoveries too are up to 43 – that’s 21 more than were pronounced cured yesterday.
  • Testing continues with over 2,000 awaiting results.
  • Worst affected areas continue to be the north and Lisbon, with 1,858 and 1,082 cases respectively. Deaths in both again are the highest: 28 in the north, 18 in the Lisbon area. The centre of the country follows with 435 cases and 13 deaths – while the Algarve and Alentejo ring in the lowest numbers. One death in Algarve (89 positive cases), 20 cases in Alentejo, 24 cases in the Azores and 15 in Madeira. Regarding the Alentejo, cases are inching their way towards the Algarve border in the west, with fruit pickers in Odemira being among the latest stats. 
  • All hospitals are now involved in this fight, including the private hospitals.
  • A second baby has been born to a Covid-19 positive mother, and tests negative.
  • President Marcelo has cancelled Portugal Day commemorations scheduled for June 10.
  • It’s becoming more and more ‘clear’ that schools will not be returning for the ‘third period’ (summer term). See story to come.
  • Of cases confirmed, the highest numbers have been registered, yet again in the 40-49 age group. Children under the age of 10 are also Covid-19 positive (14 boys and 29 girls), but it is still the over 70s who ‘inspire most concern’.
  • Of the deaths, these have involved three men and one woman aged between 50-59, eight men aged between 60-69, 14 men and one woman in the 70-79 age bracket and 16 men and 17 women over the age of 80.
  • Due to this heightened phase of virus propagation, the Civil Protection authority has put the areas of Lisbon, Porto and Aveiro under ‘orange alert’. What this means however is a little unclear: the message given in a press conference yesterday was for people in those areas to ‘stay at home’. It’s the message given to the whole country, but perhaps suggests transgressors in Lisbon, Porto and Aveiro will be dealt with more harshly.

 

Wednesday March 25:

Pre- today’s press briefing, the mood of the press has changed dramatically over the last 24-hours with Expresso carrying a story on how the associations of doctors, nurses and pharmacists have actually accused the government of ‘lying’  – particularly when it comes to vital supplies of medical material coming through (see separate story).

The inference that Portugal’s situation may not be as it is being presented has also been highlighted by the mayor of Ovar, who posted last night on Facebook that the number of positive cases in his borough is “almost double” the figure announced by DGS health authorities yesterday.

“The situation in Ovar continues to be very complicated and infected patients in serious or very serious conditions are starting to appear”, he wrote last night. “We really need help from our health ministry. Meantime, the up-to-date number of infected confirmed at this time by the municipality is 101, which is quite a bit different from the 55 announced today”.

Carehomes too have been reporting serious situations, with dozens of elderly inmates showing signs of infection and being shipped out to waiting hospitals.

Midday today saw prime minister António Costa on a visit to Lisbon’s Curry Cabral hospital which is now exclusively given over to treating patients suffering from the virus. It was a clear ‘damage limitation’ exercise backed by the hospital hierarchy which insisted there was no lack of any medical equipment or necessities.

Figures released as Mr Costa was giving a short press conference show that positive cases now are just under 3,000, representing a 27% increase on those recorded yesterday.

Deaths too are up again, from 33 to 43. Suspected cases now stand at 21,155.

A report from today’s press briefing will follow shortly, but it is clear from diagrams released over national television that the numbers of infected now in the Alentejo have leapt to 12 (from yesterday’s 6) and those in the Algarve have also increased to 62 from yesterday’s 46. The only ‘saving grace’ here is that all cases are in the boroughs already affected: Portimão (11 cases), Lagoa (4), Silves (3), Albufeira (17), Loulé (7), Faro (17), Tavira (1) and Vila Real de Sto António (3).

Worst affected areas remain the north and Lisbon.

80% of deaths have been in the over-70s, which is why authorities are trying so hard to ram home the message for this age-group to ‘stay indoors’.

Talking outside Lisbon’s Curry Cabral Hospital just before the press briefing began, the prime minister stressed that more than anything right now, “more than numbers and all the questions being asked, is the need for enormous discipline”. Citizens must remain under the “maximum possible isolation” as the country enters the most critical phase of this outbreak: that of ‘mitigation’ in which community transmission is underway. Not explosively, stresses Graça Freitas of the DGS health authority, but dangerous nonetheless.

The next few days will be pivotal in seeing where this pandemic, in national terms, is headed.

Tuesday March 24:

Tuesday’s ‘Covid-19’ press conference presenting data from the last 24-hours managed to get itself into something of a mess.

First it was reported that there had been six deaths up till midnight last night. That number suddenly changed to seven, and now it is at 10.

The confusion stemmed from data being used that hadn’t been fully updated.

In total however, infections have been established in 2,362 people – representing an increase of 302 on yesterday’s totals.

Testing is continuing – perhaps not as widely as the public might like, thus figures will be constantly changing.

Today’s press briefing was ‘more aggressive’ than usual in as much as journalists kept pressing for further details. Who were the latest dead, for example? (Well, that was complicated as they kept increasing). Were they elderly people in care homes?

None of the answers really satisfied.

We heard there are currently 203 people interned in various hospitals, 48 of them in intensive care.

The north of the country continues to be the most affected, with 1,130 cases of the virus and nine deaths.

Lisbon and Vale do Tejo comes next with 852 cases registered and eight deaths.

The centre of the country has 293 cases and has suffered 11 deaths.

The Algarve now has 46 cases (only one death so far, last week), while cases in the Azores and Madeira are unfortunately increasing by the day: 12 in the Azores so far, 11 in Madeira.

The Alentejo, this far the area with the fewest cases, has now registered six people with the virus, all of them understood to have contracted it via someone who had recently returned from ‘abroad’.

For the first time, the DGS health directorate has listed municipalities affected by the pandemic: Lisbon is the city with the most cases (175), followed by Porto (126), Maia (104), Vila Nova de Gaia (68) and Valongo (65).

Today’s panel was without the familiar (somehow comforting) face of Graça Freitas. Instead the DGS health directorate was represented by Diogo Cruz, the deputy director working alongside Ms Freitas – while the health ministry was represented by Secretary of State António Lacerda Sales.

The ‘good news’ was that supplies of ventilators are increasing all the time – with 500 purchased by the government from China expected over the course of the next few weeks up to April 14.

The ‘not so good news’ is that the country is most definitely now in the ‘mitigation phase’ in that community transmission is in clear evidence.

Nonetheless, last night on national television prime minister António Costa insisted that  the health system is not in danger of collapse, nor are we anywhere near the point of running out of necessary supplies and materials.

“We will not lose control of the situation”, he told his interviewers, stressing nonetheless that “we cannot create the illusion that we will get through this without pain”.

Meantime, the way Portuguese hospitals deal with positive patients is changing to ensure only those with the most serious symptoms are interned.

Another new development is that anyone now showing signs of a persistent dry cough and fever will qualify for testing.

Pressure to test people who are not showing symptoms has been rejected this far for being likely to create a ‘false sense of security’.

In the wider sphere, four planes will be leaving Lisbon today for Germany, Brazil and the UK evacuating stranded cruise line passengers from the multideck behemoth ‘MSC Fantasia’.