Hopes are rising in Portugal that the worst of a devastating pandemic surge might be over, as the number of COVID-19 deaths reported Monday was the lowest in three weeks.
The country’s pandemic picture is mixed, however, as hospital admissions rose for the first time in a week. Still, the spread of COVID-19 has by some metrics been slowing since the end of January.
Portugal became the world’s worst-hit country last month, with a deluge of new daily deaths and cases engulfing the public health system. Data collated by Johns Hopkins University on Monday showed Portugal still recording the most daily deaths per 100,000 population and having the world’s fourth-highest rate of new cases.
Blaming the sudden fast spread on the arrival of a COVID-19 variant first identified in England, Portugal went into lockdown from Jan. 15. It shut schools a week later.
Portugal officially recorded just over 2,500 new infections, taking the country’s total to almost 768,000, the health ministry said Monday. New cases have been trending downward since Jan. 24, when they reached a high point of more than 16,400. The number of new cases published on Mondays tends to be lower than the true number due to fewer tests over the weekend.
The ministry reported 196 more daily COVID-19 deaths, the lowest since Jan. 18. In all, the country has seen 14,158 confirmed deaths.
Still, Portugal’s hospitals remain under severe strain and likely will be that way for several weeks, health experts say.
Hospitalizations rose to 6,344 but were still lower than the Feb. 1 peak of 6,869. The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care was 877, below the Feb. 5 high of 904.
The national lockdown could remain in place through mid-March, officials have said.
On Monday, some 1.2 million schoolchildren started remote learning, either online or via television programs shown by the public broadcaster. The government says it is buying around 335,000 laptops for children who don’t have one.
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