No new restrictions as case surge passes peak // Autumn vaccine calendar to be released soon
Portuguese news in English on Saturday, May 28, 2022.
By the numbers
No new restrictions as case surge peak has passed
The government has decided not to tighten any new pandemic restrictions in light of a recent surge in cases, saying the peak has likely already passed, Público reports. Minister of the Presidency Mariana Vieira da Silva said an expert analysis of the latest numbers showed cases had begun falling in some regions and age groups. She reiterated that the end of the mask mandate in most situations didn’t mean they shouldn’t still be used in high-risk moments. The comments came after a meeting of the Council of Ministers and following Portugal surging to a daily average of 2290 cases per million inhabitants last week and 3.17 deaths, both figures the second most in the world and most in the European Union, Público reported.
Autumn vaccine calendar to be released soon
Anyone over 80, the age group responsible for 78% of COVID-19 deaths in May, is now eligible for a second booster (fourth shot overall, usually), along with nursing home residents. Other age groups are still being analysed and da Silva says the vaccination calendar for autumn would be revealed by June 9. Experts are expecting a new surge in cases in October and November, even without new subvariants emerging. Epidemiologist Manuel Carmo Gomes appealed to those under 50 who still hadn’t received a booster to do so, saying it would increase antibodies as well as cellular immunity. The BA.5 Omicron subvariant, considered more transmissible, is responsible for four out of five new infections in Portugal, Público reports. About 1500 pharmacies are still doing free COVID-19 tests, but only with a prescription from the National Health System (SNS), Público reports.
Should we think of COVID-19 as a syndemic? (and what’s a syndemic?)
A group of Portuguese researchers are arguing for the COVID-19 pandemic to be looked at in a broader way that fully encompasses the staggering impacts it’s had on reinforcing economic, social and political inequalities, Público reports. The idea has been pushed by scientists from various parts of the world before but this new study from the Francisco Manuel dos Santos Foundation uses Portuguese data. It argues for abandoning a purely epidemiological approach and focusing more on the vision of people in the social context and points out 15% of people lost their jobs, 37% worked less and 45% (particularly among the less wealthy) never switched to working from home.
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Authorities confirm 74 cases of monkeypox in Portugal, the most cases per resident in the world. Those infected are all men and mostly in the Lisbon and the Tejo Valley region. The BBC’s Science Focus magazine and Nature have good general explainers about the outbreak, which is the largest ever outside of Africa, in English. (Público)
Government to cut tax on menstrual products, talk about taxing crypto. Some products to drop from 23% VAT to 6%, amid discussions over menstrual leave and taxing cryptocurrency. (Público)
Portugal in talks to ship US gas to Poland and Germany via port of Sines. It’s part of a move to make Europe less dependent on Russian energy sparked by Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. (Público)
European fruit with traces of most toxic pesticides 'up 53% in nine years'. Público points out 85% of Portuguese pears and 58% of apples tested were found to have residues of at least one pesticide from the most toxic categories. (The Guardian, in English)
Former Portuguese banker who fled justice found dead in South African jail cell. João Rendeiro was arrested in South Africa in December after fleeing the country to avoid a prison sentence for tax fraud and other crimes associated with the collapse of Banco Privado Português. (Diário de Notícias)
On a lighter note
Even with the current building and renovating boom, Lisbon is still home to more than 48,000 empty homes, Público reports. This weekend, 15 teams of university students are fighting to find the best technological solution to the problem and the housing crisis it helps worsen. The aim of the hackathon is to reduce bureaucratic issues and make it easier for potential buyers to find information about empty apartments or buildings. The competition draws students from distinct fields such as engineering, management and architecture.
Correction: I originally said there were more than 48 million empty homes in Lisbon. The correct figure is 48,000.
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