Portugal: Covid-19 mortality rising, masks recommended

Deaths from Covid-19 are expected to rise in Portugal over the next 30 days, said a report by the Instituto Superior Técnico (IST) on the pandemic, which recommends wearing a mask whenever there is a risk of contagion.

“Daily deaths on a seven-day rolling average have risen from 20.3 to 30.3 since 16 May, a 50% rise that will become more pronounced in the coming days. The recent rise in cases will probably contribute to the rise of this indicator in the next 30 days,” said the risk analysis that Lusa saw, prepared by the IST working group that follows the evolution of Covid-19 in Portugal.

The document produced by Henrique Oliveira, Pedro Amaral, José Rui Figueira and Ana Serro, who compose this working group coordinated by the president of Técnico, Rogério Colaço, also said that, with data from 22 May, the Pandemic Assessment Indicator (PAI) of IST and the Medical Association was at 84 points, above the “alarm level”, and may reach 90 points, taking into account the forecasts of hospitalisations.

The PAI combines the incidence, transmissibility, lethality and hospitalisation in wards and intensive care, presenting two thresholds: the alarm level when it reaches 80 points and the critical level when it reaches 100 points.

According to IST specialists, the transmissibility index (Rt) – which estimates the number of secondary cases of infection resulting from each person carrying the virus – is at 1.13 in Portugal, when on 9 May, it was 1.17.

“We advise reinforcing monitoring and passing the message that the pandemic danger is not over yet. We recommend using masks whenever the risk of contagion may exist,” the document said.

According to the report, the use of masks is recommended in significant outdoor events, concerts and events in closed environments and work contexts when there is a proximity between workers less than two metres.

IST data also indicate that the seven-day average incidence rose from 14,267 to 27,388, which is “almost certainly due to the abrupt withdrawal of mask use in almost all contexts and the new BA.5 strain of the Omicron variant” that is in the country.

“Test positivity remains at very high levels, above 59%”, said the report, which attributes this rise to the “elimination of free testing in pharmacies, which leads the public to test only to confirm privately performed testing”.

The lethality (number of deaths concerning cases of infection) “has been rising since 6 February. In about two months it doubled the February values”, and is currently at 0.25%, the document said, which considers that there is an upward trend in this indicator “due to the decrease in the effect of immunity in those over 70 years old”.