"Compared to the previous month, there was an increase of 8,514 beneficiaries (+4.9 percent), while in the year-on-year comparison there was a decrease of 106,611 beneficiaries (-36.9 percent)," states the statistical summary prepared by the Strategy and Planning Office (GEP) of the Ministry of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security.

The data, subject to updates, encompasses sickness benefit, occupational sickness benefit, tuberculosis benefit, provisional granting of sickness benefit, sick leave due to Covid-19 contagion and benefit for prophylactic isolation (of oneself) by the new coronavirus.

According to the GEP, the number of beneficiaries of sickness benefit was 137,321 in December, of which 56,521 were male (41.2 percent of the total) and 80,800 were female (58.8 percent of the total), "the latter being higher in all age groups considered".

The age group between 50 and 59 years old is the one that includes the largest proportion of beneficiaries (29.8 percent), followed by the group of people between 40 and 49 years old, which represents 26.5 percent of the universe under analysis.

At the beginning of January, data from the Ministry of Labour available to Lusa showed that only in the first 21 days of December, sick leave due to Covid-19 skyrocketed 160 percent compared to November, to 23,100, even before Portugal had reached the highest levels ever of newly infected people.

This December data from the Ministry of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security did not therefore cover the week between Christmas and New Year, when the first peaks in the number of new people infected by the new coronavirus were recorded.

Still, Covid-19 sickness benefits totalled 23,100 in the first 21 days of December, compared to 8,900 for the whole of November and 6,700 in October.