Portugal closes in an attempt to stem the third wave

Arrival of a patient with Covid-19, at Funchal hospital, on the island of Madeira, after a transfer from Lisbon, Friday January 29.

The image begins to become dramatically banal. This Friday, January 29, another thirty ambulances were lining up in front of the Santa-Maria hospital in Lisbon. The day before, they were nearly forty waiting outside for a place to be allocated to the sick who were inside.

« This situation is more than unacceptable in terms of dignity ”, denounced the vice-president of the Portuguese Society of pre-hospital emergencies. The director of the hospital, the largest in the Portuguese capital, had for his part announced the day before that the emergency services would begin to preselect the patients likely to be treated in the hospital on board the ambulances, in order to divert to health centers for non-urgent cases.

With 1,429 cases diagnosed per 100,000 inhabitants over the last fourteen days and 247 deaths per million inhabitants, Portugal, a former model student of the first wave, has become the country most affected in Europe by the Covid-19 pandemic , according to the report drawn up on January 28 by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), responsible for monitoring the epidemic.

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After surpassing the threshold of 300 deaths in a single day, on January 27, the small country of 10 million inhabitants again broke a sad record on January 29 with a total of 806 people hospitalized in intensive care services. Saturated, the Portuguese hospital system is struggling all the more to face the third wave because it is dilapidated and has been particularly damaged by the austerity policies that accompanied the last economic crisis and the placing of the country under supervision in 2011. .

Madeira Island in reinforcement

To deal with the situation, the Socialist government approved, Thursday, the extension of the state of emergency, along with new restrictions, starting with the ban on residents traveling abroad, except for compelling reasons. Border controls have also been reinstated and rail traffic with Spain suspended. A few days earlier, the country had already banned flights to and from the United Kingdom, then Brazil. Home confinement, in effect since January 15, with the closure of non-essential businesses, has been extended for another fortnight. Just like the closure of classes, imposed since January 21.

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Finally, the ban on going out of one’s town on weekends has been reintroduced. “The situation is very serious, warned the Minister of the Presidency, Mariana Vieira da Silva. We are not in a position to relieve the current restrictive measures in any way. “To strengthen the nursing staff, exhausted by the virulence of the epidemic recovery, the government has authorized the hiring of professionals with qualifications abroad, “Exceptionally” and ” for one year “ provided that they have at least five years of experience, as well as retired doctors and professionals who have not yet validated their specialty.

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