“High risk autumn” sees government prepare plan of attack

Experts are quoted this week as predicting an increase in cases of infection for Portugal “three weeks after the start of the new school year”.

The truth is that the pandemic is starting to eat into people’s psyches.

The weekend saw President Marcelo admit that (as far as he can see) the economic and social crisis could grind on until 2022, even 2023.

António Costa e Silva, the ‘business genius’ tasked with mapping Portugal’s ‘reindustrialisation’ has said the Portuguese economy could shrink by 12% this year – almost double the 6.9% forecast by the government.

And now we have the ghastly spectre of a ‘high-risk autumn’ where the ‘regular flu virus’ is expected to dance an evil jig with Covid-19 and render the lives of all those slaving away in hospitals even more ‘impossible’.

There has to be a point where these stories lighten up, but we don’t seem to have reached it yet.

So, what can we do to find the ‘positive’? Well, according to Expresso, the DGS health authority is coming up with a plan of attack: it means to hire even more health professionals (beyond the 3,900 new staff members taken on since March); bring forward (and widen the target audience for) the regular vaccinations against winter flu; increase testing and expand the network of laboratories carrying out tests and “adjust contingency plans in hospitals”.

It’s “vital” that non-Covid patients are not pushed to one side any longer. Thus the plan is for “strong focus on telephone consultations”, so that people can still get a chance to talk with their doctors – and be prescribed treatments/ medicines.

To avoid people going to hospitals, medicines that are usually dispensed exclusively by hospitals are going to start being given to pharmacies, or delivered directly to people’s homes.

Investigator at the Institute Ricardo Jorge João Paulo Gomes explains: “The winter is coming and we need to be prepared. We are all tired. No-one likes using a mask and it’s inevitable that there will be natural, progressive relaxation (of measures). Our immune systems will be weaker, and rapidly things could become more complicated”.

The ‘fear factor’ seems to have been powered by what is being seen in the southern hemisphere, which is currently going through its winter.

Says Expresso, “this week Australia returned to confinement, isolating around five million people. Brazil, Argentina, South Africa are all facing huge difficulties and specialists believe that the flu virus still hasn’t reached its own peak…”

Schools are not ‘helping’ the picture by saying they don’t see how they will be able to reopen in September according to DGS guidelines as they simply don’t have the space to keep pupils a metre apart from each other in classrooms. Authorities are “pondering a mixture of presencial and distance learning”, say reports.

The general picture for the next few months has been painted on a very dull grey canvas – without anyone really knowing how the virus will develop.

For now, despite the constant increase in the number of cases, Portugal’s hospital numbers are falling everyday (around 500 interned, with 70 in ICU), and people are ‘getting better’ without having ever really felt ill in the first place.

This could be down to the summer temperatures reducing the strength of the virus, or it could be a sign that the virus is weakening.

But no-one is prepared to say that yet.