Portugal’s stellar Covid numbers wobble slightly

On the face of it the last couple of days have simply continued Portugal’s downward trend when it comes to Covid numbers. 

Deaths are right down (just six people registered today, 8 yesterday); new cases too (+450 today, +457 yesterday).

The Rt number is well below 1 (meaning transmission is not at any level of danger where the virus can take-off again).

But numbers in hospital have suddenly risen. From 744 on Saturday, to today’s 765: an increase of 21 people whose symptoms are so bad they have to be treated in hospital.

ICUs have been unaffected. They remain caring for 170 people (the last time this number changed, it was to fall by 12 patients).

The last time hospital internments increased was by roughly the same number on March 15 (also a weekend). The days leading up to March 15 had seen a fairly constant reduction in numbers being treated in hospital since February.

Weekend bulletins are never ‘the whole picture’ as some laboratories are not testing, or testing on a much reduced scale. Therefore a better picture of how the situation is developing will come clear next week.

We still have a week to go on the ‘current regime’, before any new sectors are opened up.

April 5 (the Monday after Easter) signals a major step in which:

  •  secondary schools (2º and 3º ciclos) should be able to start taking pupils – as should ATL (tuition centres for those ages).  
  • Centres for the handicapped will reopen along with museums, monuments, palaces, art galleries ‘and similar’, as will
  • Shops up to 200 m2 with a door giving out onto the street 
  • Cafés/ restaurants will be able to start having clients on terraces (with 4 people maximum at any table); 
  • low risk sports will be allowed, as well as physical activity for groups of up to four people in the open air, and 
  • gymnasiums as long as they are not giving group classes.

In the meantime, the government has asked schools to prepare for ‘mass antigen testing’ ahead of the April 5 return of older pupils to the classroom – and next weekend will see roughly 80,000 teachers receive their first shots of vaccine.

It’s still unclear how often the rapid antigen tests will be performed in secondary schools. It could be once a week or twice.

Says the government directive on the requirements for schools to prepare for testing: “the greater frequency of tests seems to be associated with a greater reduction in the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and indeed better performance of the tests, given that the increase in frequency of their use in the same individual seems to compensate for the lower sensitivity of these tests (compared to nucleic acid amplification tests, that is, PCR)”.