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“We prevented the collapse of our hospitals”: Algarve’s pandemic coordinator praises regional response to Covid-19

The Algarve succeeded in preventing the collapse of its hospitals during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in Portugal and was even able to receive patients from other parts of the country, the region’s pandemic coordinator and Secretary of State for Decentralisation and Local Administration said in Parliament this week.

His statement came during a parliamentary hearing with all of Portugal’s regional pandemic coordinators on Thursday.

“I would say the big goal that we always had was to make sure the number of cases in intensive care and the number of hospitalisations never grew beyond what the regional health services could bear,” Jorge Botelho said, adding that the Algarve University Hospital Centre (CHUA) was able to rise to the challenge.

In fact, the Algarve was even able to provide support to other regions which were in much more serious situations with the opening of a field hospital in Portimão.

Although it has already closed since it is no longer needed, the field hospital welcomed a total of 170 patients – 104 of whom were from other parts of Portugal, such as the Alentejo and Lisbon and Vale do Tejo regions.

Said Botelho, authorities in the Algarve worked together to ensure the pandemic never got out of hand.

January 20 was singled out as the peak of the pandemic in the Algarve. The Algarve registered 447 cases on that day, with 267 people hospitalised and 29 in intensive care units, 13 of whom were on a ventilator.

“Now, only 17 people are receiving hospital care in the Algarve due to Covid-19 and only two of them are in intensive care units. The Algarve also has the lowest 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 inhabitants, with 43.8 cases,” Botelho said.

The secretary of state said the creation of Quick Intervention Brigades (Brigadas de Intervenção Rápida) were “extremely important” to help deal with outbreaks at local nursing homes.

He added that the Support Structures (Estruturas de Apoio) were also “very important”, providing accommodation for 23 Covid-19 patients who did not require hospital care but needed to be isolated, thus freeing more hospital beds.

The Algarve Biomedical Centre (ABC) also played an important role in the fight against the pandemic as well as the Laboratório de Saúde Pública Laura Ayes, carrying out all “the tests that need to be carried out,” Botelho said.

On a closing note, he revealed that 8% of the Algarve’s population has received the first jab of the Covid-19 vaccine, which translates into around 45,000 people. Only 3%, however, have received the second.