In various parameters - number of infections, deaths, hospital admissions and patients in intensive care - the data between October 1 and November 22 this year, compared to the same period of the previous year, indicate that the country is currently in a more favourable pandemic situation.
When comparing these two periods, based on data from the Directorate-General for Health, there is a common thread: the indicators of the pandemic gradually worsened over the 53 days analysed, both in 2020, as in 2021.
At the end of 2020, this evolution culminated in the worst wave since the beginning of the pandemic, which reached its peak in January and February 2021, with a record number of cases of infection and heavy pressure on Portuguese hospitals.
In October of last year, the country was in a state of calamity, later passing to a state of emergency, but now the country is in a less restrictive context, as, on October 1st of this year, the mainland territory moved into a state of alert, the lowest response level foreseen in the Basic Civil Protection Law.
The group of experts that advises the Government on managing the pandemic believes that action should be taken before Christmas, given the risk of an exponential increase in the number of cases, which could double or triple in a only a few weeks.
Cumulative numbers of cases and deaths
As of November 22, 2020, Portugal recorded a total of 260,758 cases of coronavirus infection and 3,897 deaths associated with Covid-19. A year later, the number of infected was already 1,123,758 and 18,339 people had died.
70% less infections
If between October 1 and November 22 of last year, the country had a cumulative total of 180,841 positive cases, in the same period of 2021 that number dropped to 54,429, which represents about 70% less infections by the SARS-virus. CoV-2.
In 2020, the day with the highest number of infections was November 19, with 6,994 cases, and in 2021, it was today, with 3,773.
81% reduction in deaths
Among the various parameters, the most significant reduction is that of deaths associated with covid-19, which shows a decrease of 81% in the comparison between the two periods: in 2020, 1,926 people died from covid-19, but this number decreased to 364 in 2021.
In 2020, November 11 was the day with the most deaths, 82, while in the same period of 2021, it was November 22, with 18 deaths.
Reduction of almost 80% in hospital admissions
Another significant decrease was registered in hospital admissions, which dropped 79.6% when comparing October 1st and November 22nd this year with the same period in 2020.
In 2020, the daily average over these 53 days was 1,795 people admitted to the wards, decreasing in 2021 to 366 patients who needed this type of clinical care.
75% reduction in intensive care
With regard to patients in intensive care units, the reduction in the daily average between the two periods was 75%.
Last year, this average was 259 patients per day, but this year it dropped to 64, which represents 25% of the critical value defined in the pandemic risk analysis of 255 beds occupied. This pressure has been rising in recent days and the 93 patients who were in intensive care on Monday raise this threshold to 36%.
Vaccination above 86%
Considered by most specialists as the determining factor for reducing the pressure on health services, Portugal today has more than 86% of the population fully vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2, representing around nine million people.
Highest Transmissibility Index (Rt)
On November 22 of this year, the Rt - which estimates the number of secondary cases of infection resulting from each person carrying the virus - is higher (1.19) than on the same day of November 2020 (1.05).
The incidence rate of the SARS-CoV-2 virus nationwide has also registered a significant increase in recent weeks, reaching 251.1 cases per 100,000 population today, when in early October it was at 101.7.
The latest report on the pandemic's “red lines”, released on November 19, warns that the analysis of the different indicators reveals an epidemic of moderate intensity, with a growing trend at the national level.
The variants that appeared in 2021
By the end of 2020, national health authorities were determining whether the UK-associated variant of SARS-Cov-2, later called Alpha, was circulating in Portugal, with the first sequences being detected as early as January 2021.
This variant still gained some ground in early 2021, reaching almost 60% of infections, but was quickly surpassed by Delta, which, in mid-February, was already responsible for about half of the Covid-19 cases in Portugal.
Since then, Delta, considered more transmissible than the original virus, has become the dominant variant in the country, similarly to what has happened in Europe, reaching a prevalence of 100% in recent months.