Covid-19: Situation 'worrying' in Algarve, but vaccination is easing pressure on hospitals

Of the 35 active outbreaks in the region, 20 are in schools

Photos: Nuno Costa|Sul Informação

The situation in the Algarve «is worrying because the numbers are high», but, in terms of hospital capacity, «we are still very far from the numbers of the third wave». This was one of the strong ideas left at the press conference to assess the pandemic that took place this Monday, December 6th. 

Months later – and with data from Covid-19 increasing – the media was once again summoned to this press conference, which, as usual, brought together regional entities linked to health and politicians.

Ana Cristina Guerreiro, regional Health delegate, considered that the situation in the region “is worrying” and the estimate is even “growth”.

"Low temperatures are in favor of the virus, as well as social gatherings at this time before Christmas and time spent indoors with lots of people, such as shopping," he explained.

According to the official, the Algarve currently has «35 active outbreaks», of which 20 are in schools, such as Padre Cabanita and Duarte Pacheco (Loulé), EB 2,3 João da Rosa (Olhão) or Lejana (Faro). Still, "most of these outbreaks in schools are small."

There are also two outbreaks in homes – “one of them with some dimension, but already stabilized”. The other has, so far, 7 cases and tests will be carried out again today.

By municipalities, Portimão, Lagoa, Monchique, Loulé and Faro they are those with the highest incidence of cases, while, at a regional level, this indicator stands at 761 cases/100 thousand inhabitants.

Ana Cristina Guerreiro also made a portrait of infections by age groups and, there, the most affected has been «people between 30-39 years old, closely followed by the 40-49 year-old group and children aged 0-9 years old who has grown a lot in the last few days».

In this wave, "the groups of the elderly, those aged 70-79 and those over 80 years have been spared".

For the responsible, this is an "effect of the vaccination in these groups, which is already more advanced, namely with regard to the booster dose".

As for the profile of the internees – there are currently 88 in the ward and 20 in intensive care – the regional health delegate added that they are “younger” in this wave and that there is a relevant fact: “half were not vaccinated”, which « seems to demonstrate that the virus looks for loopholes in vaccination”.

And it is, in fact, this new “weapon” against the pandemic that has prevented, despite the significant number of infected people in recent weeks, the pressure on health services from being as intense as it was a year ago.

Paulo Morgado, president of the Algarve Regional Health Administration (ARS), explained that, «in terms of hospital capacity, we are still a long way from the figures for December [2020], January and February, which were of great pressure for the National Service of health".

“The situation is not comparable. In the current scenario, CHUA has a very large margin of absorption capacity for patients hospitalized with Covid-19. In Faro, the hospital is not at its limit and can be increased. At the Hospital de Portimão, CHUA also has two more units contracted with private individuals: the former Santa Maria Clinic, in Faro, and São Gonçalo de Lagos», he added.

For all these reasons, the reactivation of the field hospital, which operated in Portimão Arena, at the beginning of the year, despite being, «at the limit, a possibility» should not be necessary», said the official.

Furthermore, the fact that the rate of increase in cases is “a little slower” helps CHUA to be prepared. “There is a contingency plan, it has already entered a phase that is not zero, with reinforcement of beds and facilities. I think we have conditions to respond in the region», he defended.

António Pina, president of the District Civil Protection Commission, explained that, at this moment, «the Algarve has to prepare for the next six months. We will all have to be vaccinated again, including children. Only vaccination gives protection and will bring back normalcy, regardless of the variants that may or may not appear».

The mayor outlines the goal of reaching Easter "as the number one region, as the model region" in the fight against the pandemic.

For this, it is necessary to give up some things, as the New Year's Eve celebration.

“The municipalities decided to cancel events that could be a real disaster for public health and, later, for the economy. These decisions may seem, in the short term, penalizing the economy, but, in the long term, they are the right ones», he concluded.