The start of the pandemic in Portugal was marked by a genetic variant originating in northern Italy, which gave rise to 3800 infections in the north of the country.
The information was revealed by the Secretary of State for Health, António Lacerda Sales, this Monday, at the press conference on the evolution of covid-19 in Portugal, based on the first results of the genetic study that is being developed by the National Institute Dr. Ricardo Jorge (INSA).
João Paulo Gomes, coordinator of the study, added that this “genetic variant comes from the region of Lombardy, will have entered Portugal on February 20 in the North / Center region, in the industrial zone and will have spread in a way that cannot be detected by public health authorities for ten days“.
They were already “3800 cases in mid-April“, he revealed. At this point,”one in four cases were caused by this specific genetic variant “, explained João Paulo Gomes.
The full results of the “Study of the genetic diversity of the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in Portugal”, which has already analyzed 1785 sequences of the genome of the new coronavirus, will be released within two to three weeks.
António Lacerda Sales also recalled that this Monday first phase of influenza vaccination, which for the first time starts in September, to “minimize the circulation of the seasonal flu virus and SARS-CoV-2”. “At 335 thousand doses This first phase is aimed at health professionals who provide services to the public, pregnant women and elderly people living in nursing homes “, said the Secretary of State.
“The pandemic has taught us a lot about unity and it has been through the effort of everyone that we have overcome many of the challenges that have been placed on us. In terms of influenza vaccination, we are also all together, in favor of the success of this campaign that will be the country’s success“added Lacerda Sales. In addition to health centers, pharmacies this year will be able to collaborate and also administer the flu vaccine.
There is 51 active outbreaks in nursing homes and 12 in schools, Graça Freitas said. Of the outbreaks in homes, ten are in the North, two in the Center, 33 in Lisbon and the Tagus Valley, three in the Alentejo and three in the Algarve. Of the outbreaks in schools, five are in the North, one in the Center and six in Lisbon and the Tagus Valley. In total, there are 78 people involved in these outbreaks that tested positive for covid-19.
Regarding the number of health professionals infected by the new coronavirus, António Lacerda Sales revealed that are already 4970: 629 are doctors, 1435 nurses, 1401 operational assistants, 166 technical assistants, 167 therapeutic diagnostic technicians; other professionals are 1172. However, there are already 4108 recovered.
Asked whether the authorities were prepared for a second wave of the epidemic, the Secretary of State said that it is necessary to “prepare the worst and hope for the best”. “We have been, in fact, through our autumn / winter plan to implement a set of measures, through our organizational cascade at the regional and local level, both at the ACES level and at the hospital level. Also through our ADR and now we are also going to increase our testing capacity “, said Lacerda Sales. “This is not a job that started now, it comes from behind. We have been reinforcing what is our response at the level of the different institutions”, he concluded.
The director-general of Health admitted that there are several active outbreaks in hospitals, mainly originating in active cases of health professionals, but guaranteed that these are being investigated and monitored closely. “The situation is under control. Outbreaks are identified and we are observing whether there are transmission chains outside the establishments where they were identified,” said Graça Freitas.
Over the Santarém Hospital, the director-general of Health said that she had obtained “no information to confirm an outbreak”.
About the gathering of passengers at Lisbon airport, on Sunday, the Secretary of State for Health said he hoped “it was a purely punctual situation, which is not recommended from a public health point of view”. Lacerda Sales took the opportunity to announce the entry into operation of the electronic PLC [“Passenger Locator Card”, ou cartão de localização do passageiro], through a pilot project, on October 2nd “, with an official start from October 9th.
Asked about influenza vaccines, Graça Freitas announced that they have already been delivered 335 thousand doses that “are enough to vaccinate in the first phase”. In relation to vaccination in homes, the director-general of Health admits that “the logistics are more complex”, since health centers will have to organize themselves with homes to vaccinate residents and professionals. Flu vaccination is free for residents and professionals of these establishments.
“The big measure we have for autumn / winter is the flu vaccination. The big challenge is to distinguish whether or not a respiratory infection is caused by the new virus or whether it is flu. It is a long work that awaits us “, pointed out Graça Freitas.