According to data released by the Ricardo Jorge National Institute of Health (INSA), last year, 85,456 newborns were studied, 1,908 fewer babies than in 2019 (87,364), under the National Neonatal Screening Program (PNRN), which covers almost all births in Portugal. Compared to 2015, the year in which 85,056 babies were screened, the lowest number in the last five years was a drop of 0.48 percent in 2020, representing 400 fewer births, according to INSA.
Lisbon was the city that registered the most newborns, totalling 25,014, 1,267 less compared to 2019, followed by Porto, with 15,734, 33 more than the previous year. Braga registered 6,538 births in 2020, 96 fewer than in 2019, and Setúbal 6,459, minus 264, according to data from the test carried out from the third day of life, through the collection of blood droplets in the child's foot.
Commenting on this data to Lusa agency, the demographer Maria João Valente Rosa said it was "still premature to draw conclusions about the direct impact that the pandemic had on births", because "most of the children who were born throughout the year 2020 were conceived before the pandemic of covid-19 in March". "The effect will certainly be strong in 2021," commented the university professor at the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences at university Nova de Lisboa. However, he noted, there is an "indirect effect that may have some influence, the decrease in immigration, therefore, of the entries of people from other countries to Portugal."
"We know that the contribution of foreign women to the total number of births has been increasingly significantly", corresponding to 12 percent of births in 2019 in Portugal. "Therefore, the fact that some mothers, perhaps already pregnant, may leave the national territory and may have had some influence on the reduction in the number of births."
Maria João Valente Rosa also stressed that if it confirms a decrease in the number of births this means that there will be "an extremely negative natural balance in 2020" due to the number of deaths already resulting from the pandemic. "The natural balance in Portugal has been negative since 2009, that is, more people die than are born. However, as deaths have increased a lot and births have perhaps decreased, the natural balance that will be even more negative", stressed the demographer.