Portugal could be ‘among best in controlling third wave’, says virologist

Portugal was “the best in the world in the first lockdown, the worst (in the world) at the outset of the third wave” and will be one of the countries that manages to control this wave quickest “because there has been fantastic adhesion to confinement.

“The results are in sight”, virologist Pedro Simas told Lusa on Sunday.

The expert from the Molecular Institute of the University of Lisbon has been a constant ‘source’ of information throughout the pandemic, appearing regularly on television.

In his understanding: “if there are no contacts (between people), if people adhere to the rules, the virus cannot transmit. It’s in our hands. And this is why the downward curve has been so abrupt”.

Yesterday’s tally of new infections was the lowest for weeks (just 3,508). It is highly likely that today’s could be higher as numbers over the weekend are always reduced due to less overall testing.

But the general tendency, says Simas, shows very clearly that deaths are reducing as is transmission within communities.

Closing schools was key in this “inflection of the growth curve”, he stressed, “because it sent a clear message to Portuguese society. 

“When schools are closed, it is because the matter is serious”.

The closure also ensured there is less circulation of adults.

But now comes the time to plot Portugal’s slow return to ‘normality’, or at least to the reopening of the wider economy.

Says Simas ‘it’s very important to learn from the past, and understand that deconfinement needs to have rules so that Portugal doesn’t run the risk of a fourth wave’.

He stressed it was “the relaxation of measures before, during and after Christmas that led to the third wave of the virus” that the country is still grappling with today.

Thus, like so many fellow experts advising the government through the pandemic have stressed, all the measures of mask wearing, hand-washing, physical distancing and ‘reducing unnecessary contacts’ have to stay in place.

According to Simas, the ‘safe moment’ to start deconfinement will only come when the country is registering between 700 – 1,400 new cases per day.

This could happen within the next two to three weeks, he believes.

Tomorrow, other experts will be meeting with the government to discuss the ‘ideal safe moment’ when the country can start emerging from its lockdown. Tabloid Correio da Manhã came up with a ‘possible timeline’ on Sunday (click here). But it all depends on political decision-making.

As Simas stressed, levels in every country of the world are falling. In fact “there has never been such a large decrease” since the pandemic began.

But it all depends on how we emerge from this third wave as to what happens next. 

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