Portugal, the most vaccinated country against covid-19 in the EU, resumes restrictions | International

People wearing a mask this Tuesday, November 16, in Sintra (Portugal).
People wearing a mask this Tuesday, November 16, in Sintra (Portugal).Jorge Mantilla (NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Portugal will also impose restrictions to face the new wave of the pandemic, despite being the European Union country with the highest vaccination coverage against the coronavirus, with 86.5% of the population with the complete immunization scheme — in Spain it is 79 ,two%. This is reducing the severity of cases, which is evident in the low number of admissions and referrals to ICUs, but it has not stopped the expansion of a new wave of contagions. The increase in the cumulative incidence to 14 days, set on Thursday at 173.7 cases per 100,000 population, led authorities to resume some containment measures to try to contain a new explosion of cases, including the mandatory use of mask outdoors and in restaurants, as well as tracking cases through free trials.

The spread of contagions may have resulted from the relaxation of protective measures such as the use of masks, which since September 13th are not mandatory in the street and since October 1st, neither in restaurants. In Spain, for example, it is still mandatory to wear a mask in these establishments and the cumulative incidence rate in 14 days is 92 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

The prime minister, the socialist António Costa, called for this Friday afternoon a meeting of Infarmed, the multi-sectorial body that brings together technicians and political leaders, to hear the specialists’ proposals for action. The meeting is also attended by the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who in recent days has shown himself in favor of adopting measures to curb the new wave, such as the mandatory nature of the mask, although without falling into alarmism. “Let’s take it easy. We have a vaccine, something we didn’t have before,” he explained earlier this week.

From this Friday’s proposals, it is likely that the indications for the Christmas parties will come out. The permissiveness adopted at Christmas 2020 ended up taking the country to the worst moment of the pandemic.

Considering that some of the restrictions require the approval of the Assembly of the Republic, which is about to be dissolved, Rebelo de Sousa was willing to postpone as much as possible the decree that will end the current legislature in order to allow deputies to take measures against the covid. -19. The maximum deadline for the dissolution of Parliament would be between 1 and 6 December, as this has to be done between 55 and 60 days before the elections, scheduled for 30 January, are to be held.

Costa will meet next week with the different political groups to discuss the new restrictions, which will be defined by the Council of Ministers next Thursday. The country faces this fourth wave at a time of political crisis that led to the anticipation of elections.

A preview of what could happen across the country was seen this Thursday in the Madeira archipelago, where the president of the region, Miguel Albuquerque, announced that from Saturday masks will be mandatory in public spaces and outdoors. The most controversial, however, is the ban on the entry of non-vaccinated people into leisure, sport and cultural establishments. Some Portuguese jurists expressed doubts about the legality of this measure being adopted by a regional president.

The increase in infections and hospitalizations in recent days, however, is far from the dramatic scenario registered a year ago. If on this Wednesday there were 523 inpatients (72 of them in intensive care units) in Portuguese hospitals, the data for November 17, 2020 is multiplied by almost six: 3,028 inpatients and 431 in ICUs. The contrast in death toll is also similar. On Wednesday, 12 people died from covid-19 compared to 79 on November 17, 2020. “If you compare hospital admission rates, the difference is huge. The impact on health services is much smaller. This is in fact the best answer to denial, 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 rejection rate for vaccination in Portugal is between 1% and 2%, a value very far from the resistance shown in other societies in Central Europe. “It’s residual”, explains Lacerda Sales, who attributes the great reception that the vaccination 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 factor”, he says. Another aspect that, in his opinion, influenced the success of vaccination is the logistics itself. “The integration and work between different sectors, health authorities, municipalities, social security, civil defense and security forces has worked very well, it has been a great intersectorial work, combined with different forms of convocation, from the Open House model , where whoever wants to get vaccinated, and whenever he wants to be called to the population”, he highlights.

Portugal is vaccinating all people over 65 and health professionals with a booster dose. For next week, the forecast is that this dose is extended to firefighters and social workers. The Ministry of Health’s goal is that 1.5 million Portuguese people already have the third dose on December 19th.