One in five Portuguese feels anxious, excited or sad all or almost every day. The portrait was drawn at the Infarmed meeting on Tuesday, which brought together experts and politicians from Carla Nunes from the National School of Public Health of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa to analyze the epidemiological situation in the country.
The specialist spoke about social perceptions related to Covid-19, and according to her, general health was deteriorating. One in five Portuguese said they felt anxious, excited, or sad all or almost every day. This indicator showed fluctuations over time and was better in summer (“after the first wave”) and at Christmas time.
As for the perception of health in general, the indicator remained stable, although it saw some fluctuations. The worst health conditions have been identified among the oldest. In terms of mental health, women were most affected and the youngest were affected.
The specialist presented the indicators on the behavior of the Portuguese and noted an “improvement in behavioral indicators during the pandemic” – the only decrease occurred in the fortnight of the Christmas holidays, but it recovered.
In the past two or three weeks, the risk behavior has increased slightly – namely, when using a mask when you are out and with other people. This is most evident with the youngest.
“Avoiding visits to family and friends” and “staying home” were the most difficult measures
In terms of perceptions of the responsiveness of health services, there have been wide variations over time, with the worst indicators occurring in October and January (when there was also a high incidence). At this point there was a strong rebound, with levels close to September and particularly high in the recent ones. When asked about the appropriateness of government-imposed measures, it is men less than 65 years of age and higher educated who claim they are inappropriate.
Regarding the ease of adoption of the measures, Carla Nunes indicated that “avoiding visiting family and friends” and “staying at home” are the most difficult measures for Portuguese respondents to adopt. The characteristics that best describe the profile of those who have identified it as difficult or very difficult not to visit friends are those with less education. worse mental health; greater distancing difficulties; who consider government action to be inadequate; who are in personal or partial telework. It will be important to adopt an “awareness strategy” targeting this measure and profile, says the expert.
The elders and people who are aware that there is a risk of infection have better looked into the measure that prevents family and friends from visiting.
There has been an “important” surge in testing in the past few days
Earlier, the Public Health Doctor of the Epidemiology Department of the Ricardo Jorge Institute and President of the National Association of Public Health Physicians, Ricardo Mexia, said on another issue that there has been an “important increase in tests against such in recent days.” Antigen tests “and a stabilization of the tests with PCR tests. The “recent surge in the number of antigen tests being performed also reflects the massification of tests related to resumption of school activity,” he said.
The specialist also stated that there were more comprehensive tests in several sectors, namely in prisons (14,700 tests performed; positivity down 7%); Schools (more than 80,000 tests performed; less than 0.1% positivity); Cooperation with the Presidency of the Council of Ministers (1.4% positivity); National Network for Integrated Continuous Care (approx. 60,000 tests performed; positivity of 4.5%); Residential facilities for the elderly (150,000 tests performed and 2,627 positive).
Ricardo Mexia also stressed that the ECDC (European Center for Disease Prevention and Control) recommends that the positive rate be below 4%. In Portugal, “this situation has evolved” over time, with the country “attaining very high levels of positivity, peaking on January 31 with 19.96% positivity”.
On March 19, the 7-day positivity rate (number of new cases divided by total number of tests) set by the ECDC was 1.4%.
According to an analysis based only on the number of positive tests and the total number of tests, Portugal recorded an overall positivity rate of 1.2% on March 19, with that figure increasing by 2.3% as expected for PCR tests only. Looking only at the antigen tests, the positivity was set to 0.3%.
The test strategy coordination task force will meet on Thursday
Ricardo Mexia had previously presented the objectives of the operationalization plan of the test strategy in Portugal at the meeting, which was recently drawn up as part of an order from last week in which the National Health Institute Dr. Ricardo Jorge will also work together.
This plan provides for the management of the strategic reserve of available tests, the creation of an information system related to this activity, as well as the management of communications (both internal and external) and the need for coordination with the various units.
The aim is to promote massive and systematic testing in the population, although it is intended that “these tests be carried out on the basis of objective and clear criteria and that this action corresponds to the context in which it is placed”, with the plan included the sectors should be public, social and private.
The strategic lines relate to an epidemiological analysis in relation to the higher incidence and the contexts in which that incidence may occur, as well as issues with higher exposure, more vulnerable populations, and essential services.
Ricardo Mexia also stressed the need for the most comprehensive notification system possible, with a strong link to responsiveness and the link to epidemiological surveillance and the complementarity of the tests – since “the tests are not interchanged”. – and maintaining a PCR test to verify these aspects.
The specialist also underlined the importance of test periodicity and the fact that these criteria are dynamic, which means that “the evolution of the epidemiological situation itself may dictate these strategies and there is a need to carry out more or less PCR tests”.
Ricardo Mexia later stated that this task force to coordinate the testing strategy would meet next Thursday. Further details on the development of this strategy should be released in the coming days.