‘On track’ to one of highest Covid-19 incidence rates in EU

  • Lusa
  • 15 June 2021

The researcher from the University of Porto said that Portugal is on its way to being one of the countries with the highest incidence in the European Union.

Portugal may be “on its way” to being one of the European Union countries with the highest incidence of Covid-19 cases due to the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, a mathematician specialist in epidemiology, Óscar Felgueiras, said on Tuesday.

The researcher from the University of Porto said that Portugal is on its way to being one of the countries with the highest incidence in the European Union, considering, however, that the hospital impact of the growth in the number of cases will be moderated by vaccination.

“Not only are we going to surpass the European average, but we are also going to surpass most of the European Union countries. It will be fast, another one or two weeks we will be ahead of almost all countries,” the expert stressed, pointing out that the country is “quite exposed” to the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, associated with India.

“We have some conflicting forces here,” he said, referring to the vaccination process, relieving of measures, population mobility and the new variant, which is rapidly gaining prevalence in Portugal and has a very large impact on incidence, unlike central and eastern European countries.

Asked whether the increased incidence rate would justify a retreat in the deconfinement measures, Óscar Felgueiras said that was more a political issue than a public health one.

“From the public health point of view, we are in a situation that is worsening, but we also know that with the effect of the vaccines, the hospital impact is probably less than it was in the past, namely in terms of deaths and hospital admissions,” he said.

The question is to combine the increase in incidence with the economic impact and the mental health of the Portuguese, considering that this also depends a little bit on the interest of the municipalities, he added.

As for the Delta variant, Óscar Felgueiras said that the moment of super transmission that occurred on 12 May in the Lisbon and Tagus Valley region may have favoured its spread.

“This moment of super transmission may have meant that the proportion of the Delta variant may have risen to a different level to that of the country. This, in itself, contributes to the fact that, even during similar behaviour, the contagion is greater,” he said.

According to the specialist, the new variant will tend to spread based on the behaviour of the population that has been “incompatible” with the control of new infections.

“There was initially an outbreak in Lisbon, which stands out within the Lisbon and Tagus Valley region, but it is spreading to neighbouring areas such as Cascais, Sintra and Setúbal,” he said.

Felgueiras also stressed that a stabilisation below the level /240 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants) next week was unlikely for the time being, which under current rules implies a risk of a retreat in the relieving of measures in the municipality of Lisbon.

Portugal has registered 625 more cases of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, but no deaths and the number of people hospitalised has risen to 340, 77 of whom are in intensive care, according to the country’s national health authority data.