Portugal outperforms in containing pandemic

Why has Portugal not been as badly hit by the pandemic as other European countries?
How has Portugal performed so far?

Portugal had more time to prepare

Spain’s first case was reported on 31st January. Community transmission had begun by mid-February. The risk was originally under estimated, with a national lockdown only imposed on 14th March. By this date the infection had already spread to all 50 provinces, with a total of 6,391 cases already confirmed by that date.

By contrast, the infection arrived in Portugal much later, and emergency measures taken much earlier in the transmission process. Portugal´s first cases were reported on 2nd March. By 12th March all schools were closed, and by 18th March a full State of Emergency was declared.  At this time only 642 cases had been confirmed.

People respected the containment measures

The reaction of the Portuguese people to the austerity measures introduced in the wake of the 2011 euro crisis revealed much about the national character. However much they may have grumbled, the people knuckled down and accepted the longer working hours, etc., as a price they had to pay to ward off the greater evil of Euro exit.  The Portuguese gained international respect for their resilience during this difficult time.

The lockdown measures were passed with little political opposition, and have been accepted and followed in the same spirit of social cohesion. There is wide recognition that they are for the ultimate common good.

The government has also been proactive in introducing a wide range of emergency measures to mitigate the financial impact on businesses and workers.

 What happens now?

The State of Emergency is due to end on 2nd May, with many shops and offices reopening on Monday 4th May. The government is meeting on 30th April to determine the rules that will apply to this new phase.

The Statistics

Highest rate of testing in Europe

As at 29th April, Portugal[1] had tested 37,223 people per 1m population. This is the highest rate for any European country, other than for city states like Luxemburg.

Germany is generally considered to have responded very well in protecting their citizens, but its testing rate is only 65% of the Portuguese figure. The UK testing rate in less than half of the German rate and the French rate significantly lower even than the UK.

Low death rate similar to Germany

Death rates show a strong inverse correlation with testing rates but are also affected by the quality and scope of healthcare resources available. On this macabre score Germany has outperformed Portugal with 75 deaths per 1m population compared to 93 for Portugal. In terms of % deaths to confirmed cases, Portugal and Germany are very close, at under 4%.

However, the UK death rate per 1m population is nearly 3.5 times higher than the Portuguese figure and the French rate nearly 4 times. The UK death date as a % of confirmed cases is nearly 3 times higher than in Portugal or Germany.

Infection and death rates on a downward trend

Looking at the progress of the infection, the following chart shows the number of new infections reported per day from 2nd March to 28th April:

Deaths per day are now showing a similar downward trend.

Limited infection in the Algarve

At the height of the lock down, over the Easter weekend, no travel was even permitted across municipal boundaries. This was helpful in containing the outbreak in the Algarve, as otherwise many holiday home owners from Porto and Lisbon would have made the trip south.

As it is, the incidence of daily new cases in the Algarve peaked at 28 on 5th April, and has been been running at an average of under 3 cases per day since 10th April.  The number of deaths as a percentage of confirmed cases has been similar to the national average at under 4%.

The following chart shows new cases and deaths in the Algarve from 2nd March to 28th April:

No infection in the Western Algarve

Of the 330 cases so far detected in the Algarve, 58% are in the three central Algarve municipalities of Albufeira, Faro and Loulé. There are fewer cases in the municipalities further east, west and north. There have been no reported cases at all in the far western municipalities of Vila do Bispo, Aljezur or Odemira. There were only three cases reported in Lagos, and these were transfers from hospitals in other municipalities.

[1] https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

Leave a Reply