Kraken variant arrives in Portugal (but do not be influenced by the name…)
A still from a video game featuring the terrifying Kraken

Kraken variant arrives in Portugal (but do not be influenced by the name…)

Experts do not find any reason for concern

In spite of all the alarmist studies, the Kraken variant of Covid-19 has arrived in Portugal, is not making itself felt (beyond passing from one person to another) and has not seen one expert dial into the manufactured hysteria.

Last week, researchers in China were telling anyone willing to listen that Kraken was “the most transmissible Covid variant yet”, and “could spawn even more immune evasive variants”.

The choice of the name for what is otherwise known as XXB.1.5 may be the reason for the complete lack of interest from society at large. 

The Kraken was a legendary sea monster “of enormous proportions”, with a reputation for pulling down ships.

The fact that it has been given as a nickname for a derivative of the Omicron variant – which for most people causes no more than a sniffle – has led to even the most gullible starting to question.

The Chinese study that saw media reports join the words ‘Kraken’ with ‘spawn’ described the new variant’s “ability to tightly bind to the human cells it infects”, potentially lending itself “to the evolution of an even more dangerous variant”.

But when all the jargon was redacted, it boiled down to an even more dangerous variant of a sniffle – and this does seem to be the opinion in Portugal, where it has to be said the number of people coming forwards for their 3rd and 4th booster shots is waning.

Manuel Carmo Gomes, epidemiologist and lecturer at Lisbon University’s Faculty of Sciences, was one of the country’s leading experts regularly consulted during the pandemic – not a man given to optimism, but one who realised over a year ago that leaving people to become infected naturally was becoming the best option. He has admitted to Expresso that “there is no evidence” that XXB.1.5/ the Kraken variant “is any more pathogenic”, meaning ‘capable of creating more serious cases, more hospitalisations and more deaths’, explains the paper.

Indeed, hospitalisations and deaths are no longer a characteristic of Omicron. You simply do not hear about them anymore in Portugal, where the majority of the population has had at least two shots of one of the vaccines, and even more have immunity due to having been infected with the virus.

As for the ‘humanitarian problem’ in China – involving 800 million people finally being released from their president’s Zero Covid regime, and potentially unleashing a home-grown version of the virus on the rest of the world – again Carmo Gomes cannot see a reason for panic.

The news is reassuring”, he admits, “because everything they have (in China) we also have, or have had”.

In the light of existing information, the scenario for Europe “is not worrying and nobody believes that it will cause us any problems”, he said.

Just to show how much thinking, and attitudes, have changed, Carmo Gomes said he “does not agree with the mass testing of all passengers coming from China, already recommended by the EU and adopted by countries, such as Austria, Germany and Belgium.

“Even with the EU recommendation, Carmo Gomes believes that checking people on arrival has logistical implications that may not be worthwhile, as well as moral implications”, says Expresso.

“It is also important to ensure that the EU does not delay the arrival of new variants,” he stressed.

Asking for voluntary tests from passengers as they enter the country “could help to create a sample of incoming variants, and thereby help authorities manage new outbreaks”, but as for ‘fear of the Kraken’, no, there is no need for it. It might have been more helpful all round to call XX1.1.5 Pongo, or Bambi… or even Tinkerbell.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com