New maximum in Portugal’s ICU’s as Austria takes Portuguese patients to ‘help save lives’

With impressions overall that Portugal’s has ‘passed the worst’ of its third wave of SARS-CoV-2 infections, today’s Covid bulletin has made depressing reading: numbers entering ICU’s are at a record high suddenly: another 41 critically ill patients were admitted over the last 24-hour period, taking numbers now up to 904.

Overall, infections ARE coming down, quite rapidly too: the national total for active infections is down to 156,758; new recoveries came to a very positive 11,342 and there are less people in hospitals (-84).

But the death toll is still high: 258 patients in the last 24-hours, the majority of them in the Lisbon/ Vale do Tejo area (+142), followed by the centre (+42), north (+39), Alentejo (+25) and Algarve (+10).

Madeira and Azores registered no deaths in the last 24-hours, but infections in Madeira are still running ‘high’  (+107 as opposed to the Azores’ +17). Say reports, Madeira is the only region of the country where the Rt rate remains above 1.

New infections (+6.916) are almost 1,000 ‘lower’ than yesterday’s total of 7,914 – although epidemiologists have warned against any pressure to start removing lockdown restrictions,

With the whole country facing another ‘weekend lockdown’ – where populations are confined to their boroughs of residence, and shops and services run reduced timetables – epidemiologist Manuel Carmo Gomes has said it is folly to contemplate any easing of Portugal’s measures to combat the virus before new infections are down to between 3,000-4,000 a day.

He admits new infections are reducing “at a good rate”, but the country is by no means ‘out of the woods’ yet.

Meantime, national statistics institute INE has released data to show not only that the third week in January was ‘the worst’ in terms of deaths (almost 900 in the one week), but that 75% of the victims were over the age of 75.

With doctors still braced for at least two more weeks of brutally intense pressure, the Austrian government is to start taking patients from Portugal to care for them in Austrian hospitals.

The first 10 patients will be airlifted in Austrian army planes, some to Vienna, others to four other regions. 

Five of the patients will be going into Covid ICUs. Five are suffering other illnesses and/ or have operations pending, which will now be performed in Austria.

Said Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz when he first announced his counry’s offer of help: “It’s a question of European solidarity to extend rapid help without bureaucracy to save lives”.

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