Mayors of Portugal’s high risk municipalities in discussions with PM Costa

The various mayors of Portugal’s ‘high risk’ municipalities (in terms of incidence of cases of Covid-19) have been meeting virtually with prime minister António Costa this morning with a view to clarification on their terms of deconfinement.

According to press reports, the fact that the council areas of Alandroal, Carregal do Sal, Moura, Odemira, Portimão, Ribeira de Pena and Rio Maior have had (proportionately) more than 240 new cases of the virus per 100,000 in the last 14-days could mean they do not advance to step three of deconfinement on April 19.

But as a number have pointed out, the way case numbers are being presented is slightly misleading.

For example, a borough with a small population spread over a large area can have less than a handful of cases but when it comes to multiplying that number up to a population of 100,000, they suddenly appear ‘high’ or even ‘dangerously high’.

There is also circumspection over the way authorities arrive at Portugal’s constantly increasing Rt (transmission) number.

As a leader column in Correio da Manhã has pointed out this morning, “if the number of contagions is stabilising amongst us” (which all bulletins show that it is) “it is essential that we understand exactly what kind of risky behaviour is being flagged with the increase in R. Because if the risk matrix is useful as an alert for society – and this is the way we are reading it everyday – then we need to avoid the suspicion that someone is playing politics with the numbers of this disease”.

This suspicion however is becoming more and more widespread, particularly as elsewhere it is now being accepted that the success of the vaccination programme so far in protecting the elderly is what has led to such low number of patients requiring treatment for Covid-19 in the nation’s hospitals.

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