Portugal risks remaining confined until mid-March

Portugal will “probably” have to remain confined until mid-March in order to bring the incidence of the coronavirus and the number of patients in intensive care to comfortable levels, Health Minister Marta Temido said on Tuesday.

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Experts in epidemiology heard by the government estimated that it would take a 60-day confinement, as of January 15, for the cumulative incidence to 14 days to drop to 60 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, against more than 1,200 currently, and the number of patients in intensive care is reduced to about 200, from Tuesday to more than 860.

“The measures adopted are working”, welcomed the Minister of Health, while stressing that Portugal continues to display “an extremely high level of incidence, despite a decreasing trend”.

After a record of nearly 16,500 new daily cases reached on January 28, the country detected on Tuesday less than 2,600 contagions in 24 hours, according to the daily bulletin of the General Directorate of Health.

The explosion of coronavirus cases has caused saturation of Portuguese hospitals, with a peak of nearly 7,000 hospitalized patients and an occupancy rate of intensive care beds allocated to COVID patients which has reached 90%.

With 203 additional deaths, the total death toll since the start of the pandemic exceeded 14,500 on Tuesday, more than half of which since the start of the year.

Country in the world hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in January, in relation to its population of 10 million inhabitants, Portugal has been subjected since January 15 to a second general confinement, followed a week later by closing schools.

The health restrictions in force are among the most severe in Europe, like the United Kingdom or Germany, noted one of the experts heard Tuesday by the government.

“Portugal is currently the country with the least mobility within the European Union”, underlined the epidemiologist Baltazar Nunes, of the National Institute of Health (INSA).

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