Hospital admissions for complications with Covid-19 leapt over the weekend; incidence nationally is now running at 325.2 cases per 100,000 inhabitants – but the message coming from Portugal’s president is one of calm. The worst of the pandemic has passed, he said during a working visit to Miranda do Douro.
On the basis that vaccinations are the way out of this ‘sanitary crisis’ (and over a million have been administered in the last week), the president stressed it is no longer a matter of another six months or a year, but “of weeks, a month, a month and a half” before the country can start really emerging from this crisis.
The next meeting between the government and ‘pandemic specialists’ (the group of virologists, mathematicians and epidemiologists that have been offering their expertise since the virus arrived in Portugal) has been set for July 27.
It will actually be the first such meeting since May – something that hasn’t gone without criticism by those who think it should have come sooner.
On July 29 there will be a new Council of Ministers, at which point President Marcelo said it will “make sense to look at the future. The government will decide what it understands about the future, in the light of the current situation…”
This message of positive anticipation is not mirrored in headlines elsewhere: national media is highlighting the increase in numbers entering hospital; the rise in incidence, the daily numbers of dead (which appear limited to very much older age groups).
Since last Friday there have been 22 deaths with Covid-19 in Portugal. The focus on counting these deaths is never put into the perspective that every day the country registers around 250 deaths from many other causes.
This may be one of the reasons for President Marcelo’s message.
Congratulating “the whole health structure, the contribution of the Armed Forces, the security forces and the leadership of vice-admiral Gouveia e Melo (orchestrating the country’s vaccination roll-out), Marcelo said: “We are breaking records. If there are the vaccines available and we maintain this rhythm we are opening a path for the future in the coming weeks and months”.
Nonetheless, the number of active infections in the country has now topped 46,000, though the Rt (transmission number) has reduced from 1.19 to 1.16.
Today’s new case numbers (1,782) have to be taken in the context that testing on Sundays is always reduced.
Media focus also on pressure on ‘intensive care beds’ rarely explains that in regions like the Algarve, for example, ‘near full capacity’ can be reached incredibly quickly as there are only 10 intensive care beds reserved for Covid-19 patients with a resident population of over 400,000.