According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the pandemic situation in the vast majority of EU countries is concerning, however, Portugal is an exception.
The European Union currently has an average of 500 new cases of the coronavirus that cause Covid-19 per 100,000 of population over 14 days, and this is set to lead to rises in deaths, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which indicated however that Portugal is an exception.
“Assessing on the basis of all indicators, the situation in the vast majority of EU countries is of great concern, except in some countries,” Piotr Kramarz, deputy head of the ECDC’s Scientific Advice Unit, told Lusa in an interview. “Portugal is among those in which we consider the situation to be stable.”
Kramarz, who is also deputy head of the ECDC’s Disease Programmes Unit, noted that the 14-day new case rate was “already 500 per 100,000 inhabitants as an average for the European Union, which is very high … and it has been increasing in the last six weeks, so there are more and more cases reported.”
According to Kramarz, with “the increasing rate of reported cases … we can expect that within a few weeks, or maybe even next week, we will also start to see an increase in mortality” – this at a time when the number of patients coming into hospital and intensive care with Covid-19 “remains very high.”
Portugal does not fit into this picture, according to the specialist: “After some quite sharp increases in February, the cases reported in Portugal have been declining.”
Kramarz’s comments come at a time when, after two months of strict containment that led to a sharp reduction in the number of infections, Portugal has been reopening some economic sectors as part of a gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions imposed in mid-January.
“In the rest of Europe and except in Portugal … and, I think, in two or three other countries, the situation is of great concern,” the ECDC expert stressed, explaining that this was mainly due to the spread of the variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus first detected in the UK, which has “a much higher transmissibility than the original strains”.
Across the EU, this ‘UK variant’ is already responsible for about 75% of new coronavirus cases in the EU, he said, adding that this also meant “slightly higher mortality and greater severity of illness.”
ECDC data show that other mutations first identified in South Africa and Brazil are also spreading in the EU, but “on a much smaller scale” than the UK variant.
“There are many variants of this virus – it is a mutant virus – but these three we have designated as variants of concern because they are more transmissible and more serious,” he explained.
Also, a factor in the sharp increases in new case rates in recent weeks was, according to Kramarz, a lower adherence on the part of citizens to the restrictive measures introduced by the authorities to stop the spread of the disease.
“People have in general, everywhere you look, so-called pandemic fatigue,” he said. “People are tired of all the restrictive measures and there is less and less compliance and this probably also contributes to the situation we see now.”