DGS health authority director Graça Freitas

Portugal’s health authority “not overly worried” by new variant of virus

After all the fuss circulating Europe, Portugal’s DGS health authority has said really it’s not that worried about the variant of the new coronavirus identified in UK.

“Viruses change constantly through mutations, thus the emergence of a new variant is expected and not in itself a motive for concern”, said the authority in a statement following the British government’s decision over the weekend to pull the plugs on the Christmas plans over roughly 20 million citizens – leading to a cataclysmic domino effect on all kinds of travel plans.

The DGS also stressed that “according to available evidence, the new variant does not seem to have an impact on mortality from Covid-19”.

Indeed, it may make the disease a great deal ‘lighter’

Lagos doctor and regular voice of ‘calm and reason’ through the pandemic, Lourdes Cerol Bandeira posted on her social media page this weekend: “This is a mutation. This virus has already suffered hundreds of mutations and the majority have been characterised by ‘greater contagiousness and less aggressiveness. This means the virus is transmitted more easily but the symptoms are lighter”.

Dr Lourdes remarks that she “cannot see the reason for all this hysteria with cancelled flights, etc etc”.

In the cold light of day it does seem to be becoming clear that the variant has already been identified beyond the UK. 

Meantime, ‘nationally’ the overall picture is of numbers slowly reducing. 

Tabloid reports this morning also refer to the latest death toll (from Saturday to Sunday) of 71 people (almost 70% of which were over the age of 80) saying it has been the lowest number in the last 11 days.

Nonetheless, due to the time of year, and the cold, pressure remains on the SNS national health service which is anticipating a ‘very difficult month of January’.

The first vaccines will start being rolled out as of next week, with the plan being to have 139,000 of the most vulnerable people in Phase One of the programme fully-vaccinated by the end of January.

For now, there has been no evidence, stresses the DGS, that this new ‘variant’ of SARS-CoV-2 will compromise the efficacy of the various vaccines that have been produced.

More on the variant is expected to come through the day as the European Council has been meeting to decide a ‘united response’.

Also today DGS health director Graça Freitas is due back at her post, after testing positive for Covid-19 and suffering mild symptoms.