Maps used by the government to highlight areas of risk

Portugal “with less than 100 in ICUs”, Rt and incidence levels stabilising

Portugal’s Friday Covid bulletin shows that numbers in hospital continue to fall; the Rt number has stabilised below 1 – and incidence levels are falling.

It’s a ‘landmark day’ for intensive care units (now with only 98 patients). They haven’t been below 100 Covid patients since last September.

As for numbers in the last 24-hours, these include one death, 506 new cases, 580 ‘recoveries’, the Rt (transmission) number holding steady under 1 at 0.98 on the mainland (0.99 if archipelagos are taken into account), and transmission down a tad to 68.3 cases per 100,000 on the mainland (72.1 if archipelagos are included).

It’s good news for practically everyone, except some of the boroughs battling to bring down numbers and re-enter the race to deconfinement.

Right now we have four boroughs back at the ‘phase one’ of deconfinement (meaning cafés, restaurants and commerce are once again closed), six ‘suspended’ in phase two (meaning cafés, restaurants and shops are running, but with huge limitations) and 13 enjoying phase three, but on ‘alert’.

Of these 23 ‘concelhos’ quite a few have not yet managed to bring their numbers under control.

Of the four areas forced backwards at the last evaluation: Portimão is still on 306 cases per 100,000 (authorities red line is 120 cases per 100,000); Odemira is on 991. Moura and Rio Maior have brought their incidence levels down massively to 153 and 137 respectively. This will almost certainly mean they are given the go-ahead to advance once more into stage two. With luck Portimão will be too. But Odemira could be ‘stuck’ where it is – due, we have been told, to a large number of cases being detected among immigrant workers on the multiplicity of Costa Vincentina intensive agriculture projects.

Of the six areas in ‘suspension’, almost all seem to have got their numbers back under control, if not exactly at 120 cases per 100,000. Albufeira in the Algarve, for example, is on 153 cases. Only Carregal and Penela are still running with over 200 cases per 100,000. It may be that all six go forwards when the government and experts reconsider numbers at the next Infarmed meeting on Tuesday.

But when it comes to the 13 boroughs ‘on alert’, Aljezur in the western Algarve and Resende in Viseu if anything appear to be in a worse situation than they were two weeks ago. It is not a situation of real case numbers (Aljezur has 28 agricultural workers testing positive in a borough that has many more than the 5,884 people registered in the last census 11 years ago spread over 323.50 sq km; Resende albeit more densely populated and half the sq metre size of Aljezur, has 31 active cases). But with the numbers as they are, both face ‘suspension’ at the very least, or ‘going backwards’ to the point that restaurants that just reopened their interiors will have to shut them again.

Almost all the other boroughs on warning have brought numbers back under control, but there are other municipalities now (some in Madeira and Azores) where infection rates have increased, so authorities will be busy working out which of these can advance to the 4th stage of deconfinement; which will have to stay where they are, and which must go backwards.

Announcements on all these questions are likely to be made next Thursday (following a meeting of the Council of Ministers).