Good news, bad news: Portugal’s upbeat Covid bulletins versus worrying numbers in Lisbon

The good news is that the last two Covid-update bulletins for Portugal could hardly be better. In terms of deaths, in the last 24-hours 15 people are recorded to have died; yesterday’s tally was 18. The country hasn’t seen numbers like this for months.

But the bad news is that Lisbon’s rolling 14-day case average is already above the limit set by the government for the country’s deconfinement plan, which starts on Monday.

Rádio Renascença enforces the sense of foreboding saying: “According to the deconefinment plan presented on Thursday by the prime minister if Portugal hits an incidence level of more than 120 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, the country’s deconfinement could suffer a paralysation”. 

And yet numbers in Lisbon-Vale do Tejo – the region most-battered by the virus through January and February – have seen the 14-day cumulative average hit 125.5 cases per 100,000.

In theory, we could be ‘paralysed’ before we’ve begun.

Explain reports, data gathered by INSA – the Dr Ricardo Jorge national institute of health – shows Lisbon and Vale do Tejo as the only region where transmission numbers are ‘beyond acceptable’ (in terms of the deconfinement strategy). 

What is to be done? 

This far, nothing is clear.

According to Público, the Algarve’s Rt number (0.68) is the lowest in the country, with the Azores (0.95) the highest on the scale (even though this has been the region with the least number of deaths and new infections all through the pandemic).

The north has an Rt of 0.77, the centre 0.78, Lisbon 0.75 and the Alentejo 0.68.

Rádio Renascença has given a table showing cumulative incidence rates for the country, per 100,000 inhabitants:

  • Norte – 76 cases 
  • Centre – 88 cases 
  • Lisbon Vale do Tejo – 126 cases 
  • Alentejo – 95 cases 
  • Algarve – 85 cases 
  • Azores – 41 cases 

Madeira’s numbers have been impossible to calculate because the laboratories there have been taking too long to produce numbers and then delivering them all at once.

That said, epidemiologist Manuel Carmo Gomes has predicted that a situation where a region’s Rt number exceeds 1.05 “is where we will probably fall in a short time”.

Thus “very careful monitoring of the situation of risk” has to be paramount.

Confused? Unfortunately you are not the only one. The Resident has received lots of “we are confused” emails today. The only reply we can give is “we all have to wait and see”.

This deconfinement plan has been hugely led ‘by the experts’. Yes, the government may have tweaked it here and there, but the ‘brakes’ if needed will be pulled, said the prime minister last night, stressing repeatedly that the future is in the hands of each and every one of us.

As for today’s numbers in full (click here). They are getting ‘better and better’: another 5,574 people ‘recovered’ in the last 24-hours. (As we have tried to explain before, this does not mean they were all very ill and recovered slowly. Many will have been asymptomatic, pacing their homes, watching Netflix, playing video games to distraction and heartily sick of the words ‘Covid-19’. But they are now ‘released’ into the looser confinement that the rest of the country is enduring – bringing the nation’s active case count down to just 46,732 people out of 10.2 million inhabitants.

There are a little over 1,000 Covid patients in Portuguese hospitals now  – only 266 of them in intensive care units.

The total pandemic death toll for the virus has reached 16,650 – while 749,770 people have tested positive for the virus and later ‘recovered’.