Portugal is receiving urgent aid from Germany due to its Covid crisis - the situation explained

Thursday, 4th February 2021, 11:49 am
Updated Thursday, 4th February 2021, 11:49 am
Portugal is receiving urgent aid from Germany due to its Covid crisis - the situation explained (Photo by HAUKE-CHRISTIAN DITTRICH / AFP)

German armed forces arrived into Portugal on Wednesday (3 Feb) with medical supplies and 26 health professions to provide support in the country’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Eight doctors and 18 nurses, most with a speciality in intensive care treatments, will remain in Portugal for at least three weeks.

The images of the specialists and equipment arriving into Lisbon echo similar scenes during the early stages of the Covid-19 outbreak in Europe, when Italy was assisted by several other European nations.

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Why does Portugal need assistance?

Portugal’s national health service has become overwhelmed in its fight against the pandemic. Problems have included a shortage of hospital beds and specialist nurses, with one hospital last week experiencing a shortage of oxygen.

In recent weeks, data shows Portugal has recorded the highest Covid case rate in the world, with 16,829 per million people, and highest death rate, with 340 deaths per million people.

These numbers exceed the UK’s, where case rates are currently at 6,480, and the death rate at 250 per million people.

Portugal struck early success in handling the virus, quickly deploying interventions and imposing a full national lockdown. However, this led to a relaxing of restrictions in December, and the infection rate steadily grew over Christmas.

The more transmissible variant, discovered in the UK, was detected in Portugal in recent weeks, and has led to record breaking infection numbers. January accounted for 45 per cent of all coronavirus deaths since the pandemic began in the country.

The health system in Portugal is also chronically understaffed. World Bank data shows that there are about five doctors per 1,000 people in the country. To make matters worse, 23,000 doctors in Portugal have tested positive for Covid-19, about half of whom have recovered.

The country was put into another national lockdown on the mainland on 15 January, but this does not seem to be reducing the transmission rate. There are still 164,513 active cases.

What help is Portugal receiving?

The German aid process to Portugal started on 25 January. The country has sent over a team of 25 health professionals, 40 mobile ventilators and 10 stationary ones, as well as 150 infusion pumps, and additional hospital beds.

The health professionals are to remain in Portugal for three weeks, with replacements scheduled every 21 days.

In addition to German aid, Austria and Spain have shown themselves available to provide support. The Austrian ambassador to Portugal announced on Monday (1 Feb) that he is doing a survey to find out how many intensive care beds are available for Portuguese patients with Covid-19.