Today’s ‘Valentine’s Day’ Covid bulletin in Portugal registers the lowest numbers in terms of new infections since Christmas.
Deaths over the last 24-hours (+138) were 11 down on numbers for Saturday, and continue the ‘downward tendency’ impelled by lockdown.
The extremely positive result of so many days where new infections are reducing in number has seen numbers in hospital reduce considerably: there are now only 4,826 people in hospitals up and down the country – 795 of them in intensive care units – when this time last week there were 6,248 in Portugal’s hospitals , 865 in ICUs. The ‘active case’ count is also falling dramatically – and recoveries are ‘up’: 665,316 people have recovered after testing positive for Covid-19.
With so much focus over the last month on deaths, the reality is that 665,316 recoveries have to be put against the 15,321 deaths (the vast majority of them in elderly people) to put the virulence of this virus into perspective.
As to the spread of new infections, Diário de Notícias points out how there has been a “significant fall” in the numbers coming out of Lisbon/ Vale do Tejo ( one of the main hot spots for the variants). Today’s bulletin shows the area registering 708 new infections, when yesterday it had flagged 1,440.
Numbers in the north (+584 new infections, 20 deaths), centre (+245 new infections, 27 deaths), Alentejo (+58, 11 deaths) and Algarve (+49 new infections, 5 deaths), are also at new lows.
This is the weekend, so it is very possible that numbers will rise slightly by mid-week, to make up for a lull in testing rhythm. But whichever way one interprets these results, they are heartening.
“Deconfinement without haste”
And for all those people and businesses held back from operating as normal, this ‘good news’ may well be hugely frustrating as neither epidemiologists nor the government seem in any hurry to start opening the country back up.
Says Diário de Notícias “the fall in the number of new cases of Covid-19 is accompanied by appeals by health professionals like the clinical director of a major hospital in the country who defends that deconfinement must be phased, with caution and without haste, because there is still so much to discover about the growth potential of the new coronavirus variants”.
Meantime, the EU is described as “accelerating authorisations for vaccines against the various virus strains”.
Said EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides: “We have analysed the procedures with the European Medicines Agency and decided that from now on, if there is a vaccine improved by a manufacturer to fight against the new variants based on an existing and certified vaccine, there will be no need to go through all the steps of authorisation”.
This means the ‘tweaked vaccine’ would simply be rolled off its manufacturer’s production line and straight into the network supplying Member States.
As to Portugal’s own vaccine programme, this is being ‘boosted’ next week to accommodate the latest cohort of priority groups (all those over the age of 80 and the over-50s with specific diseases).
Prime minister António Costa has pledged to ensure 1.4 million citizens are vaccinated in Portugal before the beginning of April.