Friday, December 17th | COVID-19 Weekly Update
The epidemiological bulletin of the DGS indicates that in the last 24 hours, 4,644 new cases of infection by COVID-19 were registered in Portugal and another 24 deaths. According to data advanced today, there are now 1,215,774 confirmed cases and 18,741 deaths in the country. As for people who recovered from the disease, 3,886 were registered, bringing the total to 1,126,627.
THE PANDEMIC IN PORTUGAL
Yesterday, the Government approved the decree-law that modifies the measures in the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes the application of the regime of exceptional support to the families in the period of containment, between 2 and 9 January. The Executive also admitted the possibility of taking new restrictions measures at Christmas and New Year. Already today, the Minister of Health, Marta Temido, reviewed the situation on the Ómicron variant in Portugal, revealing that its prevalence can reach 50% at Christmas and 80% at New Year. It should be noted that authorities in Madeira identified the first infection with the new variant, on the same day that the mandatory use of masks in public places in the region was approved until 1 March.
The DGS advised the population to use masks, testing, and vaccination during the end-of-year gatherings, in order to avoid the existence of outbreaks in the first weeks of January. In an interview, the general director of Health, Graça Freitas, warned that a difficult period is approaching and calls for vaccination against COVID-19, for responsibility in behavior, and for the use of self-tests. In turn, the Secretary of State for Health, Diogo Serra Lopes, said that it is necessary to prepare “all eventualities” and “plan for the future” regarding a possible fourth dose of the vaccine.
Also with regard to vaccination against COVID-19, in Portugal, self-scheduling for people aged 60 years and over is already available. Additionally, this weekend begins the vaccination of children, starting with those under nine, ten, and 11 years old, in a process that the Government estimates will be completed in March.
THE PANDEMIC IN EUROPE AND THE WORLD
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen yesterday acknowledged the “fierce pace” of the spread of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, but stressed that the European Union is “better than a year ago”. The G7 health ministers, in turn, called for cooperation in the face of the new variant, which they described as “the greatest current threat to public health in the world”.
From Canada to Morocco, from Ireland to France, travel restrictions are tightened to stem the alarming spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, as European leaders are calling for speeding up vaccinations. The United Kingdom, for example, has already identified more than 11,000 cases of Omicron and yesterday registered a new daily high for infections. Also in the US, President Joe Biden warned of the galloping growth of this variant in the country.
Also in the Americas, the National Health Surveillance Agency in Brazil approved yesterday the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 for children aged between five and 11 years.
The European Medicines Agency yesterday approved two new treatments for COVID-19, one of which uses monoclonal antibodies, while the other is an immunosuppressant already authorized in the European Union to treat inflammation. Approved was also the possibility that the drug Paxlovid, Pfizer, be used in the treatment of people who are not ventilated and who are at risk of developing serious disease.
In the US, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that Americans opt for Pfizer or Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine over Johnson & Johnson, because of the rare cases of blood clots. The entity also confirmed eight cases of cardiac inflammation in vaccinated children.
Banco de Portugal forecasts GDP growth of 5.8% and 3.1% in 2022 and 2023. However, the regulator warns that the evolution of activity is conditioned in the short term by a new wave of the pandemic in Europe and by problems in global supply chains. At the same time, Finance Minister João Leão assumed, in an interview, that he hopes to close 2021 with a deficit “slightly below” the 4.3% target.
The ordinance confirming that the retirement age will go back three months in 2023 was published today in “Diário da República”. The decline is explained by the effects of the pandemic which, by increasing mortality, reduced the average life expectancy of the Portuguese. Yesterday, it was reported that the state raised around 25 million euros, in the first two weeks of December, with fines applied to airlines that violate the new pandemic restrictions. However, INE revealed that Portugal had the biggest increase ever in the poverty rate in 2020, a year of the impact of the pandemic marked by job losses and a fall in household income.
The Portuguese stock market followed in the middle of today’s session in negative territory, maintaining the opening trend, with the PSI-20 falling 0.53%. Among the main European markets, the German DAX dropped 0.74%, the French CAC 40 lost 0.80% and the Spanish IBEX 35 dropped 0.55%. The British FTSE 100 contradicted the trend and rose 0.29%.