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.

Virologist classifies Omicron as benign: Portuguese population “well prepared” to face it

Portuguese virologist Pedro Simas has been explaining why he believes the Portuguese have nothing to fear from Omicron, due to the country’s stellar level of vaccination coverage.

While today’s Council of Ministers has suggested new restrictions could be announced by health minister Marta Temido tomorrow, Pedro Simas reiterates that Omicron is “less virulent” than Delta (the mutation that has been previously predominant in Portugal) and is causing less in the way of hospitalisations.

As the investigator working out of the Institute of Molecular Medicine at the University of Lisbon explained earlier this month (click here), “the normal evolution of respiratory viruses is that they strike a balance with the human being” (in order to survive).

Omicron is a variant “that disseminates more rapidly and which will substitute Delta and which, apparently, is less virulent. By that we mean causes less hospitalisations”, he told a TSF radio forum.

“This is a benign process… It is absolutely normal” that variants which cause the most problems ‘disappear’, and others “that are more in balance with the human being take their place”.

Pedro Simas’ science-based interpretation may not gel with that coming out of Infarmed which is advising the government, which itself is due to hold a press conference on the “situation” with regard to Omicron tomorrow (Friday). 

But his opinion resonates with other commentaries and opinions, even in Portugal’s mainstream (click here).

Tomorrow will tell: will our leaders go with “benign process” that is “totally normal”, or will they be interpreting Omicron as a dangerous potential killer, notwithstanding that nearly 90% of the country is fully-vaccinated?

Certainly, the latter course is being taken by other governments.

The UK, for example, has brought in new ‘advice’ to the population which has plunged the country’s hospitality sector into renewed crisis and despair.

So far in UK one patient has succumbed to infection with the Omicron variant. No-one is explaining the age of the patient, nor any underlying diseases which he/ she may have had, although a caller to LBC radio today has professed to being the victim’s stepson. He described the victim as a 70-year-old unvaccinated conspiracy theorist who “would probably still be here” had he accepted the vaccine.

In Portugal so far there have been no deaths attributed to Omicron, but DGS health director Graça Freitas is predicting “difficult times ahead”.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com