Health Officials Approve Some Use of Masks as Portugal Coronavirus Death Toll Reaches 629

Health officials in Portugal say it could be a good idea to use face masks in enclosed spaces.

See the most recent developments here.

Health officials in Portugal are now saying it could be a good idea to use face masks as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country keeps growing — as does the number of deaths.

Update April 16, 13h: As of Thursday morning, Portugal’s coronavirus death toll is 629, while the number of confirmed cases increased by 750 to 18,841, with only 493 fully recovered, according to Direção-Geral de Saúde. The number of suspected cases rose to a little over 154,700. But the number of people infected who are hospitalized suddenly jumped up by more than 100 to 1,302, of whom 229 are in intensive care, which is lower than peak numbers earlier in April.

Source: Direção-Geral de Saúde

Number of Reported Recoveries Still Low, But Suspected Case Growth Flattening

April 15 As of Wednesday, April 15, 599 people who’ve contracted the coronavirus have died in Portugal, an increase of 33 from Tuesday. Only 383 people infected with the virus have been reported to have recovered, although real figures may be much higher as the majority of people are recovering at home — and the Portuguese are now afraid to go to the doctor, as you’ll see below.

The number of new confirmed cases in Portugal is staying relatively flat: the total as of Wednesday afternoon is 18,091, a change of 643 from Tuesday, according to DGS. But growth in the number of suspected cases shows fewer signs of slowing down: as of Wednesday, there are more than 150,800 suspected cases in Portugal, compared to 142,514 on Tuesday.

OK, Yeah, Use the Masks – Just Not the Surgical Ones

Here at Atlas, we’ve been following World Health Organization and DGS guidelines on the use of masks during the coronavirus crisis, both of which until recently said that, basically, don’t.

Now, DGS has changed its stance: People should consider using masks in enclosed public spaces such as shops and public transit.

Illustration by Bogdan Kamuta

However, DGS warns that people should NOT use surgical masks in such circumstances, to ensure there are enough masks for the nurses and doctors fighting the spread of the virus on the frontlines. Here’s one you make at home if you’re looking for a long project, but there are plenty of other options.

In addition, DGS is pleading with people not to relax other counter-spread measures just because they’re using masks. It’s still essential to social-distance and wash, or at least disinfect, hands regularly.

Originally, we were told that masks should be used by health professionals, people who have contracted the virus, people who are taking care of them at home, and people who are at-risk, all of which remain DGS’s recommendations.

Businesses Are Starting to Close — Some for Good

Meanwhile, while 82% of the country’s businesses remain open in some form or another, a third of them have had a drop of more than 50% in revenue, according to Instituto Nacional de Estatística. And 16% of all Portuguese firms are temporarily closed — while 2% have closed for good already.

Unsurprisingly, the worst effects are being felt in the lodging and restaurant industries — in which more than half of the companies have closed temporarily.

That situation isn’t likely to get any better any time soon. Prime Minister António Costa told Rádio Observador earlier this week that the restrictions currently in place are staying put for now.

Risks to Overall Health of the Country

Here’s another concerning side effect of the coronavirus: 74% of Portuguese are afraid to go seek medical services as a result of the pandemic, according to a poll conducted by Universidade Católica for Público and RTP.  And at the same time, 26% of the general population — including 33% of people between 18 and 24 — believe their physical health now is worse than it was before the lockdown.

Mental Health Deteriorating

Furthermore, the same survey found that 35% of the people polled say that their mental health is worse than it was before the crisis. That figure rises to 44% for those between 25 and 34 and to 49% for people 35 to 44… So, you know, reach out to your friends, especially the ones living on their own, yeah?

Long-term effects: Education

Portuguese students will enter their third school trimester continuing to study from home. But a quarter of the country’s students aren’t doing their homework while under quarantine.

Coronavirus Around the World

As of Wednesday morning, more than 1.9 million people have contracted the coronavirus, and at least 128,445 have died, according to Reuters. The U.S. is now the country with the most confirmed cases: more than 606,000 people have tested positive for the virus there, and more than 28,000 have died. In Italy, more than 21,000 people who contracted the virus have died, while in Spain the number of deaths is more than 18,000 and in France more than 15,700. The UK has close to 94,000 confirmed cases, of which more than 12,000 have died.

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