Portugal decided today to halt its de-escalation plan and not advance to the next phase, scheduled for next Monday, at a “critical” moment in the pandemic that is hitting Lisbon in particular, where restrictions will be tightened.
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“This is a critical moment in the evolution of the pandemic in our country, ” said the Minister of the Presidency, Mariana Vieira da Silva, at a press conference after the council of ministers, in which she announced that Portugal will not advance to the last phase of his deconfinement plan, scheduled for Monday.
This last phase, which was to last until August, was going to allow public transport to function with full capacity and the entrance of the public into the sports venues. The infections continue to grow in Portugal, which this Thursday reported 1,556 infections, a new maximum since February, and two deaths.
The incidence is around 130 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and the Rt transmission index is 1.18, which places Portugal in the “red zone”, according to the scale of the Portuguese Executive.
Lisbon, epicenter of the pandemic
The situation is especially complicated in the Lisbon region , which accumulates two thirds of the infections detected in the country and where the delta variant accounts for more than 60% of new cases.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown a favorable but slow evolution in Spain for weeks, which is seeing how little by little the situation stabilizes and the indicators show increasingly positive values. However, the delta variant of the coronavirus and its version with a new mutation – the delta plus – have put many countries in check due to its rapid spread and threaten to unleash a fifth global wave of infections.
Delta and delta plus variants threaten a fifth global wave
The measures are going to be toughened in the municipality of Lisbon, where restaurants and shops will only be able to remain open until 3:30 p.m. on weekends, with the exception of supermarkets, which can work until 7:00 p.m.
Teleworking is also still mandatory. Some Lisbonites are already preparing for a summer with more restrictions. “They are going to have to be tougher because a fourth wave is coming,” Luísa told EFE, with resignation, in a cafeteria.
This weekend the perimeter closure of the Lisbon metropolitan area will also be maintained, although circulation will be allowed if a digital certificate or a negative test is presented . The City Council is running a campaign of free tests in pharmacies and queues at the doors of these establishments are becoming more frequent.
With the announcement that a negative test serves to escape the perimeter closure, “probably” the number of locals who come in the next few days will increase, they point out to EFE from a pharmacy in the capital, where this Thursday they have already made a hundred .
“Race against time”
The delta variant, which emerged last autumn in India, is already present in 80 countries, with the United Kingdom being one of the most affected despite having half of the vaccinated population. According to studies published by the British Public Health Agency, the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines continue to be effective at both doses even though their effectiveness drops slightly. However, just with the first dose, protection drops “around 30%”, explains Salvador Macip, a researcher at the University of Leicester.
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While the tests increase, the vaccination continues. The Minister of the Presidency pointed out that Portugal is experiencing a race against time between the advance of the pandemic and vaccination. He recalled that studies suggest that the effectiveness of vaccines against the delta variant is good when the regimen is complete but not so much with just one dose, and explained that there are still more than 700,000 people over 60 years old without the second.
“It is necessary to keep the pandemic under control to have time to progressively vaccinate people , particularly the most vulnerable,” he said, calculating that in two or three weeks the guideline for the majority of those over 60 will be able to complete. Portugal has about 47% of the population with the first dose and 30% with the full regimen.