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28th Sep 2022

Portugal and Spain under pressure with huge Covid spike

  • Portugal is seeing coronavirus patients queuing for beds to become available in some hospitals (Photo: Slinky2000)

Portugal and Spain are struggling to control a massive surge in new coronavirus cases, amid fears over vaccines delays and fast-spreading Covid-19 mutations.

The worsening epidemiological situation triggered the Portugese government to close the border with Spain for two weeks on Thursday (28 January).

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With more than 668,900 confirmed cases and 11,305 deaths, including a record 293 dead on Wednesday, Portugal is seeing coronavirus patients queuing for beds to become available in some hospitals.

The situation is not "bad", it is "terrible," said Portuguese prime minister Antonio Costa as the country registered the world's highest seven-day incidence of new daily cases and deaths per million inhabitants.

"There's no point in feeding the illusion that we are not facing the worst moment. And we will face this worst moment for a few more weeks, that is for sure," he added.

Portugal is going through its worst moment since the beginning of the pandemic, but experts have said that the new surge of cases will peak only in mid-February - increasing concerns over the potential collapse of the country's health system, the Associated Press reported.

Costa has acknowledged that the situation had worsened partly because restrictions were relaxed during the Christmas holidays, but also due to the spread of the new more transmissible variants of the coronavirus - first detected in the UK, Brazil and South Africa.

"There were certainly errors: often the way I transmitted the message to the Portuguese… and, when the recipient of the message did not understand the message, then it is the messenger's fault, I have no doubt about it," he admitted.

Flights to and from the UK were banned last weekend, while air travelling to and from Brazil will be forbidden as from Saturday.

Earlier this month, Portugal announced a nationwide lockdown and state of emergency from 15 to 30 January, in which people are obliged to stay at home except to obtain essential goods and work, only if teleworking is not possible.

However, the stay-at-home order was lifted last Sunday to allow people's participation in Portugal's presidential elections.

Spain

Meanwhile, coronavirus hospital admissions in Spain fell on Wednesday while the country registered 591 new fatalities - the highest number of deaths since April.

During the last two weeks, more than 420,000 people have tested positive - of which some 30,810 people are being treated at the hospital.

As a result, 24 percent of all Spain's hospital beds and 42 percent of all intensive care units are being used just by coronavirus patients.

"The enormous effort of spring 2020 has been wasted. Basic lessons were not learned," Miguel Hernán, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard University, told Spanish newspaper El País.

Health authorities have refused so far to impose a lockdown, although many regions have put forward strict restrictions to curb the surge of coronavirus cases.

Moreover, Spanish chief epidemiologist Fernando Simon has warned that the UK mutation will become the dominant strain in Spain in the next four to six weeks.

Analysis

Italy and Spain: worst - or just first?

Italy and Spain, the most-affected countries in the EU, have tightened their response to the coronavirus outbreak - as the pair together now account for more than half of the world's death toll.

Opinion

First Covid, now McKinsey - how austerity hit EU healthcare

The marketisation of health and long-term care, the push for Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), and the public spending cuts encouraged by EU economic governance processes all contributed to the increased commercialisation, privatisation, and reduction of health and long-term care services.

Revealed: Hit to EU mental health services during Covid-19

The pandemic has both hampered access to mental health services, while increasing demand for psychological support, particularly in countries with the most severe coronavirus lockdowns. Meanwhile, experts warn that 'teletherapy' is not a universal fix.

Conservatives' Covid-strategy wins in lockdown-fatigue Madrid

Madrid conservative leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso has become a political phenomenon mainly because of her success in keeping Madrid open during the worst moments of the pandemic. However, critics accuse her of neglecting health services - while only protecting businesses.

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