We're deep in the Third Wave of COVID-19 here with new case numbers exploding. It was a long January, but now, after another lockdown, the numbers are starting to improve. Here's where we stand as of today.
Through the first and second waves of the pandemic Portugal did great. Our death toll was lower and our new case numbers were decent given the unbelievable situation. That changed over the holidays as the government took a calculated gamble that there wouldn't be too much of a spike if families spent Christmas together. New Year's celebrations had specific travel restrictions, but not Christmas. It proved to be a mistake.
Am we angry about that decision? No. We didn't agree with it, but then we haven't been kept from visiting our family for months and months on end. Unfortunately, the Christmas gatherings were the fuel for January's huge spike where, at one point, we were seeing 14-16K newly confirmed cases and well over 300+ deaths PER DAY.
Our COVID wards are packed and the COVID ICUs are out of beds. (Portugal reserves some ICU beds for non-COVID patients.) Our death toll is now 1410 per million population. We often use the state of Georgia's numbers for comparison (similar population) and they're at 1425. So much different than last Fall. To check out some of the data on the above graphic, just click on it. There's all sorts of sub-levels to explore.
It appears that Portugal's higher numbers were caused by the U.K. variant of the virus, which has proven to be much more contagious. The United States is just starting to see this variant and we suspect they will soon see a similar spike in case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths. You give a virus a big enough breeding ground and it will make different versions of itself because its Copy-Paste mechanism isn't foolproof. That's why there's variants from South African and Brazil, as well.
We're now double masking, though we're not using an N95 at this point. We'll leave those to the healthcare pros. Harold has been receiving regular text message updates regarding COVID, and eventually he'll be told to sign up for an appointment to receive the vaccine. Me? I'm trying to get my phone number on my SNS record so they can summon me at the proper time (fortunately they have my email address). That little phone glitch didn't seem to be a big deal until now. I have never been treated in the public healthcare system (unlike Harold) so I'm not sure how this will play out. I'll let you know.
Also, we discovered our healthcare center moved to a different part of town, so there's that. You are assigned a location based on patient load at that location. We have a SNS center one block from us but the one we're assigned to is in downtown Porto because the closest one has no more availability. Hopefully I'll hear back from them soon. If not, when Harold goes in for his shot we'll see if he can add the number to my record. Worse case scenario is that I have to go to the center and do it myself. It'll work out, I have no doubt.
Currently, they're rolling out the vaccinations, not at lightening speed, but they're getting there. To date just under 400K people have received their shots (see the graphic above for the numbers of first vs. second dose) in a little over a month, so that's progress.
Bottom line: Portugal is in lockdown, our numbers are starting to drop, the economy is suffering and we're all praying for an end to this. In the meantime Fique Bem! (Stay Well).
Harold is a former software engineer. Jana is an author. Together they're exploring their new life in Portugal.