DGS and certain specialists are concerned this year's Santos Populares street festivals could see increase in number of Covid infections

Portugal still running with highest Covid case count in Europe

… and 2nd highest in the world

Portugal remains the European Union country with the largest number of new cases of infection by SARS-CoV-2 per million inhabitants in the last seven days – and the second in the world in this indicator, according to statistical website Our World in Data.

The daily average of new cases dropped from 2,580 per million inhabitants last week to 2,380 today (Monday), followed by Germany with 429, Greece with 345, France (343) and Finland (335).

Worldwide, considering countries and territories with over one million inhabitants, Taiwan has the highest average of new daily cases (3,070), followed by Portugal, New Zealand (1,340), Australia (1,140) and Panama (690).

In terms of new daily deaths attributed to Covid-19, Portugal maintains the highest in the European Union (3.68), followed by Finland, with 2.7, Ireland with 2.21, Greece with 1.51 and Estonia with 1.4.

In global terms, looking at territories and countries with more than one million inhabitants, Taiwan has the highest average daily number of new deaths attributed to Covid-19 (5.29), followed by Portugal, Finland, Ireland and New Zealand (1.87).

The average of daily new cases per million inhabitants in the European Union is 280 and of daily new deaths 0.83.

The world average of new cases is 59 and of new deaths attributed to Covid-19 is 0.18.

The above is information reported today by Lusa. 

Bulletins in Portugal are starkly informative without ever giving any kind of context.

Deaths, for example, are almost exclusively in the populations that have been double if not triple vaccinated.

Authorities’ mantra nonetheless remains that people should ‘get boosted’.

Again, this misses the point that current vaccines are not sufficiently protective against BA.5, the sub-lineage of Omicron currently ‘dominant’ in Portugal – a strain that for the overwhelming mass of society is benign, but which for the ‘vulnerable’ can be enough to prove fatal.

Why is this? Again, the statistical information given out by the DGS/ Lusa doesn’t say.

“Influencers” writing over Twitter (frequently banned, then allowed back) have suggestions.

Writes Igor Chudov in his latest newsletter “B.A. 5 is a variant for boosted people”:

“The BA4/5 sister variants currently dominate two countries: South Africa and Portugal. South Africa is barely vaccinated (only 35% had a vaccine, 5% had a booster), whereas Portugal is 95% vaccinated and 70% boosted. The situations in these countries could not be any more different: while Ba.4 and Ba.5 were mere blips on the radar in South Africa, these same variants are driving a deadly wave of Covid in highly-vaccinated Portugal, with deaths among the Portuguese nearing January peak and showing few signs of abating”.

According to Chudov – the self-described owner of ‘a popular math website’ – reinfections are happening “because boosted people are unable to acquire proper immunity upon infection. Thus, they are forced to endure endless Covid reinfections, that further damage their immune systems, inviting more illness”.

If one listens to Portuguese virologist Pedro Simas – one of the few ‘experts’ called on by national media who has consistently given a ‘laid back’ view of Covid and the need to accept the virus as becoming endemic – infection with Covid now is “very beneficial in the construction of natural immunity and in the entry of the true endemic”.

Pedro Simas signalled the end of the pandemic in December last year – and has been hugely supportive of the government’s decision to end mask mandates in most public interior spaces.

Talking to SIC this weekend (in the context of DGS concerns that infections could soar during the popular Santos Populares celebrations allowed to go ahead this year) he did his best, yet again, to say people should not be overly concerned. He cannot see much risk attached to the looming festivities in which over a million people are expected to take part, and he insists that the Covid landscape “is showing a tendency to stabilise”.

Reinfection too is “very important”, says Simas, as it ensures the maintenance of immunity among people, and prepares them for whatever is coming in “the autumn and winter”.

In other words, the bulletins may say one thing, but it is good to look at the wider picture and understand how much Covid is becoming everything critics said it wasn’t: a seasonal respiratory virus that will consistently change and remain with us every year.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com