Vaccines are here – but pandemic “by no means over”

With Portugal ‘celebrating’ the arrival today of the first batch of vaccines, the reality is that the Covid-19 pandemic is still a long way from being over.

Says Lusa, there won’t be any “real relief in contagions, hospitalisations or deaths until at least half the population has received its shots”.

And that will take months (click here).

Bottom line, says the State news agency, is that “even though Portuguese and international health authorities talk about hope and the light at the end of the tunnel, the facts recommend caution”.

The law governing the wearing of masks in the street (when physical distancing isn’t possible) has already been extended for another three months (and may well be again after that).

Said Miguel Castanho, director of the Institute of Biochemistry at Lisbon University’s Faculty of Medicine: “Probably we will only start noticing if the vaccine is having an effect on the large numbers of the pandemic by next winter”.

It would be “imprudent” if people stopped all safety measures in place “from one day to the next”, he stressed.

The game plan is to get roughly half the population immunised and “from that moment  work towards so-called herd immunity which severely restricts the capacity of the circular virus”.

It would be at this ‘critical point’ that the “essential substantive alterations” would start becoming clear in Portugal’s “epidemical situation, with a consistent reduction in the number of contagions, hospitalisations and deaths”, he said.

Half the population is roughly five million people. Yet as we have heard from vaccination programme coordinator Francisco Ramos, the country is unlikely to have more than 950,000 fully-immunised before April.

In other words, it won’t simply be a question of continuing with handwashing, sanitising and physical distancing; restrictions on movement will almost certainly persist for many more months to come.

Lusa’s report today (headlined ‘the vaccine has arrived but 2021 won’t be the end of the pandemic’) actually cites a source for the World Health Organisation suggesting “the emphasis of health authorities should be to continue all measures restricting the movement of populations for months or even years…”

Another ‘obstacle’, says Lusa, is citizens’ resistance to the vaccine. This vacillates according to different polls, but can safely be said to be running at around one in four people.

In a bid to ‘demystify’ the various vaccines that should be coming thick and fast from early 2021, the government has launched a new ‘portal’, designed to answer people’s questions and concerns (click here).

Meantime, today’s ‘numbers’ have the habitual ‘swings and roundabouts’ feel to them: deaths are still ‘high’ (78 in the last 24-hours), but then so are recoveries (+1545). And the number of new cases flagged is the lowest daily total for many weeks (just 1,214).

The number of people in hospital being treated for complications as a result of contracting Covid-19 appears to be ‘falling’, though the numbers requiring assistance in ICUs is not – suggesting some victims simply aren’t strong enough to fight off the consequences of infection.

The full virus picture for Portugal over the last 24 hours can be found here

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