Portugal refuses to confirm presence of new variant as new cases spiral upwards

Despite Madeira’s assertion that a passenger flying in from Lisbon was infected with the new variant of SARS-CoV-2 virus (click here), Portuguese authorities say it is too soon to be certain. Meantime, the number of new cases reported in the last 24-hours has shot up.

Deaths too are ‘back in the high stakes’: this time 79 people in the last 24 hours.

With the country’s vaccination programme continuing apace (private medical care workers are now being contacted for their jabs, ahead of the start of the roll-out next week in old people’s homes) it is becoming increasingly clear that the virus is still getting the better of all the restrictions brought in with the State of Emergency.

Tomorrow sees New Year’s Eve essentially truncated at 11pm, with the whole nation under a new curfew until the early hours of New Year’s Day morning.

The following three days will see a blanket 1pm curfew: obliging every citizen to return home at lunchtime and stay there until the following morning.

Monday January 4 is when we can all ‘re-emerge’ from the weekend lockdown, and when President Marcelo will be meeting with political parties to discuss whether or not he should be declaring the 8th State of Emergency (click here).

Judging by today’s numbers – and the situations in other countries throughout Europe – it would seem that he will.

Today’s figures (click here) are dismal on many counts but there is the slight positive in a dip in the number of people in hospital. Whether this changes over the next week or so is what no-one can easily predict. If the new variant is here, it is understood to be no ‘stronger’ than the virus that we have been used to. It may even cause weaker symptoms. 

But the rest of today’s numbers show a considerable spike in the number of new infections for example in the Algarve (+220) – when yesterday’s bulletin showed ‘only’ +90.

The north, Lisbon/ Vale do Tejo and the central region are all showing ‘thousands’ of new infections (+2,390, +2,097, 1,063 respectively), while Madeira and Azores are the only areas keeping within double digits (+31, +47 new cases respectively).

The number of active infections nationally is back up to 68,205.

Meantime, the country’s Ricardo Jorge Institute of Public Health (INSA) is investigating whether or not Portugal has the new variant active, and should have the results “within the next few days”.

Giving a press conference yesterday evening Dr João Paulo Gomes said samples are being analysed from all corners of the country, particularly from the airports of Lisbon and Porto.

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