Pedro Simas has invariably been a voice of calm during the pandemic. Last winter however he warned against lifting restrictions before Christmas. The government went against his advice and Portugal's situation became dramatic.

Specialists speak out against “exaggerated focus on virus infections”

Speclialists are speaking out against the “exaggerated focus” on infections of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Here in Portugal, virologist Pedro Simas argues the virus has become endemic. With almost 90% of the population protected by the vaccines, his position is that there is little point worrying about infections.

In an endemic situation – particularly at this time of year – “there will be a lot of infections”, he told Portugal CNN’s Fontes Bem Informadas programme. 

“What we want is a situation in which there is protection against severe disease and against hospitalisation. These are our criteria; our red lines” – and, in his opinion, in this context, the vaccines are doing their job.

Nonetheless, focus by the wider media definitely remains on the rising tide of infections. 

Today’s DGS tally, for example, shows a new ‘record’ for recent times: 5,649 new infections in the last 24-hours, along with 22 deaths (click here).

There is a “growing tendency” for admissions into ICUs, says SIC television news – though numbers are still not any more than they would be during a normal flu period, the news anchor interviewing Pedro Simas admitted.

Mr Simas’ convictions are that the country has to keep rolling out 3rd booster doses, and the rising number of infections will eventually level out.

As to the new Omicron variant which has now been confirmed in 38 cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection in Portugal, Mr Simas sees it as a “normal sequence of genetic evolution of this coronavirus”.

All data collected so far points to it “not being more virulent” than previous strains, and therefore there is no reason for the “alarmism” that has swept the world and once again hammered air travel.

Indeed, if Omicron spreads (as it appears to be doing in various countries) far from threatening populations, it could “contribute to the virus becoming endemic”, he said (becoming something that we all learn to live with).

This is exactly the point of view given recently by Dr Angelique Coetzee, the chair of South Africa’s medical association and credited recently with ‘discovering Omicron’ (when the variant was in fact already circulating in Europe without having been flagged).

Writing in the Daily Mail earlier this week she said: “If, as some evidence suggests, Omicron turns out to be a fast-spreading virus with mostly mild symptoms for the majority of the people who catch it, that would be a useful step on the road to herd immunity”.

Since her article, the World Health Organisation has admitted that in spite of the worldwide concerns over Omicron, not one death has been reported in anyone infected with the variant (click here).

After last weekend’s global furore, the reality is that Omicron, in spite of its multiplicity of genetic mutations, is not looking like it will require a whole new vaccine, or even vaccine-tweaks.

Meantime, in the UK, a new study publicised over LBC radio this afternoon threatens to put renewed pressure on how vaccine data is interpreted.

The study, published online yesterday, comes from specialists in research information management at St Mary’s University in London.

It suggests there has been “systemic miscategorisation” of people’s vaccination status when it comes to death.

Put simply, if someone has died within 14-days of receiving a Covid vaccination, their death has been listed as being in an unvaccinated person.

“There are so many anomalies in the data that there is no reliable evidence that vaccinations actually reduce all-cause mortality”, Professor Neil Fenton told LBC. 

Indeed the team verified “a general spike in all-cause mortality shortly after vaccination in each of the different age groups”.

Nonetheless, they found it “almost impossible” to get this latest research peer-reviewed. 

Said Professor Fenton, “Our first studies, when we weren’t challenging the official line, were easy to get peer-reviewed. But as soon as we started raising concerns we have had our research rejected”.

The paper can be found here.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com