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2021: Three waves of covid-19, three variants and mass vaccination of Population


Lisbon, December 14, 2021 (Lusa) – Three waves of infections, which put professionals and health services to the test, new variants of the more transmissible coronaviruses and the mass vaccination of the population marked the covid-19 pandemic in 2021 in Portugal.

Portugal is ending 2021 as it started: a wave of cases that has already led to more measures to contain the growth of infections and the threat of a new variant, despite doubts whether it causes more severe forms of covid-19 and whether its effectiveness is diminished of vaccines.

If in January 2021 the threat was the Alpha variant, associated with the United Kingdom, now the concern is with Omicron, detected in dozens of countries after being reported in southern Africa.

In between, Portugal faced the Delta variant, associated with India, considered 60% more transmissible than the original virus, and responsible for all infections in the country and which in 2021 gained ground to all others in Europe and the world.

But 2021 is also marked by the biggest wave since the beginning of the pandemic, in the first two months of the year, with Portugal surpassing, at the end of January, 300 daily deaths and 16 thousand cases.

With vaccination still in its infancy, the pressure on hospitals has been increasing since the beginning of the year, which most experts attributed to the easing of restrictions during the Christmas period, culminating in a peak of more than 6,600 inpatients and 850 patients in intensive care at the end of January.

Faced with the worst moment of the pandemic, the Government increased the expenditure of the National Health Service, which grew 10% in the first two months of the year, reaching 1,876 million euros, but even this effort did not prevent, for example, the Santa Maria hospital , in Lisbon, went into “over-effort” and the Garcia de Orta hospital, in Almada, was in a “pre-catastrophe scenario”.

In mid-January, Portugal became the country in the world with the highest number of new cases per million inhabitants, which led, for example, to a German clinical team of 26 professionals to land in Lisbon, for example, to help with contain the pandemic.

The confinement to control this unprecedented wave was reflected in a calmer spring, with the number of cases dropping considerably, a situation that was reversed again in the beginning of the summer, with the Government having ordered the suspension of the decontamination plan that was in progress. to be implemented, since the country was in the red zone of the risk matrix.

In summer, a time of great mobility, the country once again exceeded thousands of daily infections, reaching a peak on July 21, with 4,376 cases, and close to 1,000 hospitalized and around 200 patients in intensive care at the end of that month, figures, however, much lower than at the beginning of 2021.

With the country still in a state of calamity, the Government later put forward a new decontamination plan that came into effect on August 1, when 57% of the population had already been fully vaccinated.

The last stage of this plan came into effect on October 1st, just days before Portugal reaches the target of 85% complete vaccination, which placed the country among the first places in the world with the highest percentage of people immunized, and allowing relief almost total restrictions to control the pandemic.

This success had as central figure Henrique Gouveia e Melo, a submariner vice-admiral of the Armada, who, on February 3rd, took over the leadership of the ‘task force’ he was already part of, following the resignation of coordinator Francisco Ramos, and at a time in which the plan was overshadowed by cases of improper vaccination, and that Portugal had few vaccines and only 2% of the population was immunized.

Portugal is approaching the end of the year with an increase in infections and hospital admissions, but around 80% fewer patients with covid-19 are now in hospitals than at the end of January.

Most specialists attributed this lesser pressure to the high rate of vaccination in a country that has meanwhile reached almost 90% of its population fully vaccinated, also advancing to the booster dose for the immunization of the elderly and children aged 5 to 11 years.