Covid-19: Algarve has the highest incidence rate in the country. Why?
Around 1000 people are arriving at the hospital’s Emergency Department every day. Is it the heat, MotoGP, golf, gatherings? “I don’t have an explanation”, says the coordinator of the fight against Covid-19 in the Algarve.
In the most recent report by Infarmed, it was said that the Algarve was the region with the highest incidence in the country: 387 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 inhabitants, far ahead of the second, the central zone, where there were 295.
Furthermore, in the Algarve the age group with the highest number of new cases is between 30 and 39 years old, followed by that of between 50 and 69, while in the rest of Portugal it is among the youngest that the number of infections has climbed the most.
In addition to outbreaks in schools and universities, which are common throughout the country, in the Algarve there has been a high level of transmission at parties and family gatherings. Added to this is the presence of the AY4.2 subvariant, already in community transmission in the region.
Jorge Botelho, Secretary of State and regional coordinator for combating Covid-19 in the Algarve region, listened to Infarmed and recognised the incidence values, but… “I don’t have an explanation”, he said, unable to point out a reason why the region is the one with the highest incidence of the disease in Portugal. “It is possible that the heat was felt too late [early November].”
More visitors may have contributed to the current situation, but there is no certainty.
In November (4th to 7th) the Portugal Golf Masters 2021 took place, the same weekend as the MotoGP Grand Prix in Portimão. “There were more visitors to the Algarve and it may have contributed to the current situation, but I don’t have studies that allow me to say this with certainty”.
Jorge Botelho guarantees that the presence of the new subvariant “has not been an issue addressed” in the regular meetings to analyse the situation in the Algarve, but admits “the greater number of gatherings and parties” may be partly to blame.
However, he also highlighted that “any visitor who reports positive is counted in the Algarve, even if he does not live here”, which increases the number of cases without increasing the number of inhabitants.
Monchique, with 703 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, and Loulé, with 699, and Portimão, with 662, were, until the beginning of this Tuesday, the Algarve’s municipalities with the highest incidence.
However, in this 5th wave of the pandemic, cases “have spread almost evenly throughout the Algarve, with a natural greater number in the coastal and central municipalities”, adds Jorge Botelho.
Despite this increase in infected people, for now, the response capacity of the University Hospital Center of the Algarve (CHUA) – which runs the Faro and Portimão hospitals – is not at risk.
There are currently 72 people in the Algarve hospitalised with Covid-19, 11 of them in intensive care. A number far below the 300+ hospitalised at the end of January. But the units are starting to feel some pressure.
“We are receiving close to 1000 people a day in the Emergency Room, either because of suspicions about Covid or because of other illnesses. Of these, about a quarter are children”, says Paulo Neves, from the CHUA administration.
“In most cases, hospitalisation is not necessary, but this influx ends up saturating the services, increasing waiting times. We have to be aware that we are still in the beginning of the autumn/winter period,” he warns.
Precisely highlighting the relatively small number of hospitalisations despite the high incidence of Covid-19 cases in the Algarve, Jorge Botelho argues that “it is necessary to continue with the process of vaccination of the 3rd dose” and calls for “greater awareness among people about the rules of safety, such as the use of a mask, social distance and the use of hand gel”. He believes it is not necessary to adopt special measures for the region.
This Tuesday, November 23rd the Algarve reached 500 deaths by Covid, since the beginning of the pandemic, in a total of 46,910 identified cases so far.
Original article available in Portuguese at http://postal.pt/