Portugal bracing for second wave of COVID-19: PM

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said that the country was preparing for the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that there are now more means of care and more health professionals.

“In March, the SNS24 (emergency medical service) line could receive up to 10,000 calls. Today it has a capacity for more than 30,000. In March the daily average of (COVID-19) tests was 2,578. Today it is 35,348,” Costa tweeted, Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.

According to the prime minister, in March during the peak of the first wave “there were around 2,000 beds for COVID-19 patients. Today there are more than 3,000, which could reach 18,000.” What’s more, intensive care units have been increased from 433 beds to 704, and could reach 944.

With regard to ventilators to help patients in severe cases breathe, he noted, “in March there were 1,142 and today there are 1,939.”

“In March, we created an exceptional regime for hiring health professionals, and we have already hired 6,883 professionals linked to the National Health Service,” the prime minister added.

“Everyone anticipated that (the second wave of COVID-19) would come from autumn to winter, nobody thought it would arrive anytime soon. Now, if I am asked if I am surprised by this significant number of transmissions in the community, I am very surprised,” he added.

With daily infection numbers kept rising and hit new records in the past several weeks, the southwestern European country has returned to the 15-day state of emergency from Monday with curfew on the most affected 121 municipalities, the first of this kind in its history.

Portugal reported on Monday 63 more coronavirus-related deaths, and 4,096 new cases, bringing the country’s toll and caseload to 2,959 and 183,420 respectively since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Directorate-General for Health (DGS).

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, countries including France, Germany, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States are racing to find a vaccine.

According to the website of the World Health Organization, as of November 3, there were 202 COVID-19 candidate vaccines being developed worldwide, and 47 of them were in clinical trials.