Despite everything said by President Marcelo only a few days ago (click here), Portugal seems to be easing into longed-for ‘deconfinement’ two weeks ahead of time.
Today, for example, the number of new infections flagged in the last 24-hours has dropped to the lowest level since October: 718 cases. The number of deaths 41.
Recoveries – at 1,664 people – are more than double the number that have tested positive – and have exceeded the number of new infections for the last 28 days.
But more importantly for political leaders focusing on how and when to reopen the economy, numbers in hospitals are falling fast.
There are now 2,165 Covid patients being treated in hospital, 484 of them in intensive care.
According to projections by Nova IMS (Lisbon New University’s information management school) and COTEC Portugal Portugal will be ready to start deconfinement in roughly two weeks time.
Said Pedro Simões Coelho, president of Nova IMS scientific council: “Everything indicates that by mid-March we will have reached the levels of safety allowing us to start lifting restrictions on the mobility of citizens.
“It is important nonetheless to remember that deconfinement should ideally be progressive, starting with the activities of least risk, advancing to those of progressively greater risk”.
The study suggests that by March 14 the tally of people in hospital should be down to 1,400, 240 of which will be in ICUs.
By this time the Rt (transmission) rate will be down to ‘less than 0.7’.
Working on the basis (already outlined by the government) that the first sector to reopen will be the schools catering for the youngest pupils, Pedro Simões Coelho said “the upper sections could be reopened, progressively, with two week spaces between each reopening”.
This should also be “the principle applied to the progressive reopening of economic activities”.
As to the effects of Portugal’s second national lockdown in the space of a year, the study “points to a level of unemployment that could exceed 8%, with more than 60 boroughs on a national level likely to suffer more than 10%”. The Algarve, however, is set to be the worst affected, with “various boroughs in the region likely to have more than 15% unemployed”.
In other words, the bottom line of the President’s message to the nation last week – that the country has to take deconfinement slowly, remains. But the starting point may just have been pushed forwards a bit.