Now that Christmas has come and gone (with varying results as people scrambled to test centers to figure out whether it was safe), I think another short update on the COVID situation in Portugal is warranted as the Omicron variant takes a firm hold.
This is what things look like right now, using a relative scale for correlation of new cases, deaths and R(t):
If you look at the evolution of new cases over the last 90 days, it’s not hard to figure out that this was climbing steadily ever since my last post:
Given what happened last year, you’d expect things not to have gotten this much out of hand this time around, right?
But they obviously did, so the next logical question would be whether Omicron’s infectiousness is solely to blame here.
To be honest, I don’t think so.
Seasonal Governmental Incompentence
In a move that surprised exactly no-one in terms of both belatedness and short-sightedness, the government issued restrictions that include mandatory remote work, school closures and closing nightclubs starting on Christmas day, which is exactly the kind of delayed, completely ineffective reaction that demonstrates their utter inability to learn from past mistakes and wishful thinking regarding lessening economic impact.
The slowness and inadequacy of the response reminded me of this XKCD parody that is, unfortunately, too accurate:
They did that on the 22nd of December, after nearly three weeks of fumbling, and instead of going back to confinement during the festive season merely made testing mandatory for multiple scenarios (hotels, events, sports venues, restaurants etc.).
So this is nothing more than moving an already planned “buffer” week from post-New Year to post-Christmas, and it’s pretty obvious that it not enough even now.
Looking back, it bears reminding that none of the strict measures that were supposed to come to pass when multiple “red lines” on the chart below were crossed (many more than once), so none of this is surprising.
The government also issued a press release on the 23rd finally announcing that a booster is recommended for 40+ (as well as younger people at risk), but without set dates for the boosters themselves, which is great timing considering that many vaccination centers have been shut down and that the remaining ones will entail longer trips in ever worsening weather.
What fascinates me is that this was completely obvious a month or so ago, and that it takes almost 2 weeks of various public and political consultations for the government to do anything at all.
Taking away the usual spate of minor scandals surrounding fake vaccination certificates, unlicensed parties, and plain and simple idiocy from block-headed friends, family and colleagues who refuse to acknowledge the risks or get tested, one thing’s for sure: vaccines have definitedly made a difference when compared to last year, even though ICU admissions are trending up again.
With many children vaccinated and older people having already taken their booster shots, I’m really tooking forward to getting mine ASAP–it’s the only thing that has any real effect.