Lisbon “at risk of going backwards” in Portugal’s slow deconfinement

Lisbon is at risk of being pushed back in the next Council of Ministers ‘overview’ of Portugal’s epidemiological situation with regard to Covid-19.

The number of cases registered in the capital has “almost doubled in a week”, taking the incidence rating perilously close to the 120 cases per 100,000 used as the ‘benchmark’ for deconfinement (or otherwise).

Thursday’s Council of Ministers put 10 municipalities on ‘alert’ for their high incidence levels (click here). Data coming in has suggested there are now at least 21 pushing the limits when it comes to the ‘safe levels’ determined for infections – and Lisbon is definitely one of them.

Says SIC, specialists admit that Lisbon’s exponential increase in cases “could have something to do with the Sporting festivities” on May 11 (click here).

More concerning is the prospect of ‘case numbers’ translating into increased pressure on hospitals.

For now, the number of people being treated is well within manageable scales (210 people in total, 59 in intensive care units). But totals are slowly creeping up. Yesterday’s bulletin, for example, showed 207 people in hospital, 55 in ICUs.

The case number increase is also very much ‘confined’ for the time being to Lisbon/ Vale do Tejo and the north (+277 for Lisbon, +166 for the north). The two areas account for 443 of the 559 new cases registered in the last 24-hours. Areas like the Alentejo, on just 5 new cases or the Algarve, on 21, are a stark reminder of the difference between regions – as we approach the holiday season when populations, in theory, may start heading south.

As all reports today are explaining, “the pandemic is growing again” in Portugal, albeit the repercussions are still residual.

This is where the latest statement by vaccine coordinator Henrique Gouveia e Melo gives ‘hope’. The naval vice-admiral has been steering Portugal through the last few months with unerring resolve. Even when vaccine supply was an issue, he managed to keep up momentum, to the point now that it is increasingly difficult to find anyone over the age of 60 who hasn’t had their first jab.

Today, Gouveia e Melo has moved the goal posts yet again, saying he hopes to have 70% of the country ‘at least protected with their first dose of vaccine, by August 8’.

In other words, the fact the incidence is increasing; that Rt numbers are exceeding 1 – latest calculations for Lisbon for example put the city on 1.11 – should not necessarily translate into ‘another wave’. 

If enough people have immunity – either from being previously infected or through one of the current vaccines – new ‘cases’ will simply ‘add’ to the numbers of people who have protection against Covid-19 and therefore do not end up becoming seriously ill.

With that positive scenario in mind, today’s bulletin shows that in spite of ‘more new cases registered than numbers of people considered recovered’ (559 new cases versus 462 ‘recoveries’), no one died in the last 24-hours. The ‘low numbers of deaths’ are also very slowly reducing the ‘lethality percentage’ of this virus (now on 2.01%), which has so far infected 844,288 people in Portugal, of which 17,017 have died.

Headlining a text on the fact that ‘no one died’ according to today’s bulletin, Diário de Notícias has stressed that the proportion of positive tests is at 1.2% – well below the red-lines defined by experts of 4%.

As to the variants at play, the British is the most detected (91.2% of cases). The South African variant has only been found in 88 cases so far, the Brazilian in 115 and the Indian in just 10.