Portugal will also impose restrictions to face the new wave of the pandemic despite being the European Union country with the highest coverage against the coronavirus, having 86.5% of the population with the complete vaccination schedule – in Spain is 79.2% -. This is reducing the severity of the cases, as evidenced by the low numbers of hospitalization and referrals to the ICU, but it has not prevented the expansion of a new wave. The increase in the accumulated incidence to 14 days, placed on Friday at 191.2 cases per 100,000 inhabitants (Spain is at 111), has pushed the authorities to consider resuming some containment measures to try to stop the outbreak of the pandemic, Among which are the mandatory mask in closed spaces and events, previous tests and vaccination certificates in crowded situations, as well as case tracking through the preparation of free tests. These have been some of the initiatives recommended by specialists in the meeting held today with the highest authorities of the country to assess the epidemiological situation. After this appointment and the contacts that Prime Minister António Costa maintains with political groups next week, the Government will announce the measures that will be applied to combat this fifth wave.
The relaxation of protection measures such as the use of masks may have contributed to the expansion of infections, which since September 13 are not mandatory on the street, and since October 1 neither inside restaurants, to Unlike what happens in Spain, where it is still mandatory.
The prime minister called for this afternoon a meeting of Infarmed, the multisectoral body where technicians and political leaders meet. The meeting was also attended by the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who these days has been in favor of acting to stop the fifth wave of the country with the mandatory nature of the mask, although without falling into alarmism. “We are going to assess it calmly. We have a vaccination that we did not have before, ”he explained earlier this week. After the meeting this afternoon, the president insisted on the benefits introduced by vaccination: “Thousands and thousands of cases have not occurred, thousands of days of detention have not been necessary and thousands of deaths have not occurred.” According to the study presented this afternoon by the epidemiologist of the University of Porto Henrique Barros, the vaccination plan has prevented the death of 2,300 people and the contagion of 200,000 since May.
Given that some of the restrictions require the approval of the Assembly of the Republic, which is on the verge of dissolution, Rebelo de Sousa has shown himself willing to delay as much as possible the decree that will end the current legislature to allow deputies can vote on restrictions. The maximum term to dissolve Parliament would be between December 1 and 6, since this has to happen between 55 and 60 days before the holding of elections, set for January 30. The country tackles this fifth wave at a time of political crisis, which has led to electoral advancement.
A preview of what could happen throughout the country was already seen on Thursday in the Madeira archipelago, where the region’s president, Miguel Albuquerque, announced that as of Saturday, masks would be mandatory in public spaces and outdoors. . The most controversial thing, however, is the prohibition of entering leisure, sports or cultural establishments for the unvaccinated. Some Portuguese jurists have expressed their doubts about the legality of this measure being adopted by a regional president.
The increase in infections and hospitalizations in recent days is, however, far from the dramatic scenario that was recorded a year ago. If this Friday there were 528 internees (79 of them in intensive care units) in Portuguese hospitals, the data for November 19, 2020 multiplied almost by six: 3,017 admissions and 458 in ICU. The contrast in the death toll is also similar. This Friday five people died of covid compared to the 69 who died on November 19, 2020. “If we compare the rates of internment, the difference is enormous. The impact on health services is much less. This is in fact the best response to denialism, the scientific evidence that vaccination has an impact on health services and mortality, “says the Assistant Secretary of State and Health, António Lacerda Sales, in an interview with EL PAÍS .
Little rejection of vaccines
The rate of rejection of vaccination in Portugal is between 1% and 2%, a figure very far from the resistance shown in other societies in central Europe. “It’s residual,” explains Lacerda, who attributes the great reception that the immunization campaign has had in the country to a culture favorable to vaccines and the population’s attachment to the national health system. “The Portuguese have a high adherence to vaccines, this is a historical reason,” he says. The other factors that, in his opinion, have influenced to achieve a successful vaccination has been the logistics itself. “The integration and work between different sectors, health authorities, municipalities, social security, civil protection or security forces has worked very well, it has been a huge intersectoral work, allied with the different forms of convocation, from the model of open house where whoever is vaccinated at the time they want to be summoned ”, he points out.
Portugal is vaccinating with the booster dose all those over 65 years of age and health personnel. For the next week it is planned that it will be extended to firefighters and social service workers. The objective of the Ministry of Health is that 1.5 million Portuguese already have the third dose on December 19.