COVID-19 INSA Report shows rapid increase in R (t) trends in Portugal

The National Health Institute Dr. Ricardo Jorge (INSA), from Universidade Nova de Lisboa, the official body that monitors the incidence and transmissibility of the disease, published on Friday a report on R (t) trend in Portugal. “From mid-November until December 25, the average value of R (t) – the number of effective reproduction – remained below 1”, but in six days it shot up to 1.19.

An indicator that, according to INSA, clearly reflects “a rapid change in the epidemiological situation” in the country. In other words, “it went from a phase of sustained downward trend to the current phase of marked growth in the number of new cases, which has been maintained since December 26th”.

In the technical document, the institute explains that the average value that was recorded since the middle of November and that it represented a phase of sustained decrease in the incidence of infection, much because of the restrictive measures taken at that time by the government, changed to an inverse situation right at day after Christmas. “There was a sharp increase in R (t) in a few days (six), from 0.98 (25.12) to 1.19 (30.12), that is, an increase of 0.21”, says INSA.

According to the institute’s analysis, as of December 26, all regions recorded high average R (t) values: “The following R (t) values ​​were estimated for the regions with the most cases – 1.15 in the region north, 1.23 in the central region, 1.21 in the LVT region, 1.21 in the Alentejo region, 1.29 in the Algarve region, 1.24 in the autonomous region of the Azores and 1.21 in the autonomous region of Madeir a “.

Average values ​​only comparable to those reached at the peak of the second wave, in November, and at the beginning of the pandemic, between February 21 and March 16, 2020. Here, the value of R (t) reached 2.2, but because the “population was susceptible and public health measures were residual”.

The report can also read that since the beginning of the epidemic, the R (t) estimate varied between 0.79 and 2.15, with a downward trend observed since March 12, 2020, when the closing of schools, which became more pronounced after March 16 when the closing occurred and on March 18 with the announcement of the state of emergency. The R (t) increased again from 28 April, exceeding the value of the first half of May. From July 11 onwards, it falls below 1 and remains so until August 5th. From then until mid-November it was above 1 for 107 days.

Dated 8 January, the document reflects an analysis that reports data obtained until 3 January 2021, which already indicated that we are facing “a growing trend of new cases at the national level, in all regions of the country”, with the Center and Alentejo region under great pressure.

Since then, the trend has always been towards a worsening, in such a way, that the estimates point to the possibility that the duplication of positive cases could occur in just 13 days. “The estimated time to double the incidence of SARS-CoV-2, based on the incidence of the last 15 days, was 13 days, with this value between 11 and 17 days with 95% confidence.” That is, that of the ten thousand cases the country can move to twenty thousand daily cases in just two weeks. It was this value that set off all the alarms, as well as the number of deaths, which this week reached 118.However, estimates for next week, according to the mathematical models used by INSA and the Faculty of Sciences, point to a number of daily cases of around 12 thousand and 120 deaths.

Such estimates draw the worst scenario for this month of January in terms of responding to covid-19. “It is a serious and worrying scenario”, they explained to the DN, but it is this data that will be taken by INSA technicians to Tuesday’s meeting with the government at Infarmed, and already with a safeguard: that the next report will bring a more reality serious, given the increase in the number of cases this week. Since Wednesday, after the announcement that the country had registered 10 027 cases in 24 hours, many are calling for general confinement. The government has listened to political parties and social consultation, and everything indicates that this will be enacted from 15 January.

This is, in fact, the solution most demanded by Health, with the argument that the hospital and primary care units have reached the red line of their capacity. For specialists in public health and intensive care medicine “there is no National Health Service that can handle an average of ten thousand cases”. Of these, about 10% will get to hospital wards and 3% to intensive care.

Source DN: Original in Portuguese here: