According to mathematician Óscar Felgueiras, who specialises in epidemiology: “Portugal is on its way to being one of the countries with the highest incidence in the European Union”, considering, however, that the “hospital impact” of the growth in the number of cases will be moderated by vaccination.
“Not only are we going to exceed the European average, we are also going to surpass most countries in the European Union. It will be quick, another week or two, as we are ahead of almost all countries”, stressed the expert, noting that the country is “very exposed” to the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, associated with India.
“We have here some forces in conflict”, he said, referring to the vaccination process, the lack of lockdown, the mobility of the population and the new variant, which “is rapidly gaining prevalence [in Portugal] and which has a very large impact on incidence”, contrary to the countries of central and eastern Europe.
Asked if the increase in the incidence rate would justify a setback in the measures of easing of lockdown, Óscar Felgueiras stated that "it is more a political issue than a properly public health one".
"From the point of view of public health, we are in a situation that is clearly worsening, but we also know that with the effect of vaccines, the hospital impact is probably smaller than in the past, namely, in terms of deaths and hospitalisations”, he justified.
For the specialist, the issue involves “combining” the increase in incidence with the economic impact and mental health of the Portuguese, considering that this also depends “a little on the interests of the councils”.
As for the Delta variant, Óscar Felgueiras said that the “super transmission” moment that occurred on May 12 in the Lisbon and Vale do Tejo region “may have favoured” its propagation.
According to the expert, the new variant will have a “tendency to spread” based on the behaviour of the population that has been “incompatible” with the control of new infections.
“There was initially a focus that still exists in the municipality of Lisbon, which stands out within the Lisbon and Vale do Tejo region, but is spreading to neighbouring areas such as Cascais, Sintra and Setúbal”, he said.