DGS health chief Graça Freitas - Photo: TIAGO PETINGA/LUSA

DGS dithering delays promised announcement on reduction of period for ‘self isolation’

In spite of announcing yesterday that a decision would be forthcoming “within hours”, the DGS hierarchy has failed to give any orientation this morning on a change in rules on the period of ‘self isolation’ required for people testing positive for Covid-19 (see update below).

The clamour now for isolation timings to be reduced from 10 days to at least seven (if not five) is coming from all quarters, including even from specialists who in the past have been vociferous in their calls for every type of restriction on normal day-to-day life.

Realisation that Omicron could seriously be the moment when the pandemic becomes endemic and able to live with is proving contagious – albeit DGS health chief Graça Freitas has said she is not totally convinced yet.

Ms Freitas´’ reticence is putting her very much in a class of her own.

Virologist Pedro Simas has been on television once again today, stressing that it is time to live normally.

In the wider sphere, the ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) has put Portugal, Madeira and Azores in the “highest indication of risk” – but as we have been assured repeatedly over the last few days, the massive number of positive cases is not, for the time being, translating into a commensurate increase in serious illness.

Thus we continue to wait for the DGS announcement which must be coming, but seemingly cannot be hurried.

The reason for such anticipation is that without a change in the rules, pundits are predicting the country could reach a point where 700,000 could be ‘stuck at home’ (with generally minimal symptoms if any real signs of illness at all) by as soon as next week.

The ‘rush’ over the festive period by hundreds of thousands to ‘get tested’ has translated into a tsunami of positive cases, which other than being positive are not causing any issues: Omicron is spreading like a bushfire, and keeping people ‘at home’ for 10 days will not stop it.

Another concern is that unless orientation is changed (as it already has in Madeira), hundreds of thousands of people could find themselves in isolation ahead of legislative elections next month, and thus unable to vote.

UPDATE: At 2.30pm it was finally announced that the period of isolation for asymptomatic cases and ‘contacts of risk’ would be reduced to SEVEN days. This is still two days longer than current practice in Madeira but it will go a long way to satisfying doctors and medical specialists who see no point in keeping healthy people confined to their homes when the virus is transmitting within the community at a breakneck speed that cannot effectively be ‘controlled’.

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