Covid-19: Portugal's top position on vaccination allows for flexible measures

Since the end of August, Portugal has entered "a new phase of the epidemiological situation"

The coordinator of the Technical Commission on Vaccination against Covid-19 of the Directorate-General Health (DGS) said this Wednesday, September 8, that Portugal has a "summit position" in terms of vaccination that allows "an evolution" towards the flexibility of measures such as the use of masks.

Vaccination "is today a variable that has a very significant impact on the management of the pandemic and allows, with the necessary gradualism and proportionality, to evolve in this phase that we already know is today different from what we had, at all levels", defended Válter Fonseca at a hearing at the Occasional Committee to monitor the implementation of response measures to the covid-19 disease pandemic and the economic and social recovery process, required by the PSD, on the mandatory use of masks.

Before the intervention of Válter Fonseca, the director-general of Saúde Graça Freitas had already stated that the DGS recommends the use of masks in population centers, events in outdoor spaces and in the school recess.

Also present at the hearing, the head of the Division of Epidemiology and Statistics of DGS Pedro Pinto Leite said that, since the end of August, Portugal has entered "a new phase of the epidemiological situation", with a cumulative incidence of covid-19 cases of 276 cases per 100 inhabitants with a decreasing trend in the last 14 days.

"This trend is verified in all regions and mainly in the younger age groups, between 10 and 30 years old", said Pedro Pinto Leite, adding that this reduction in incidence is accompanied by a positivity of 2,7%, below the threshold set by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (4%) and a risk of transmissibility below 0,92.

Regarding vaccination, the specialist indicated that currently new infections occurring in people with the complete vaccination schedule are between 0,4% and 0,5% of the total.

Válter Fonseca added that all studies have shown that people with both doses have "a very significant decrease in disease severity in terms of hospitalization and mortality."

"This keeps up with the circulation of new variants like the Delta variant and allowed us to go through a fourth wave of pandemic with a completely different pressure from those we had previously seen in the National Health Service and in the health system", stressed the also director of the Department of Quality in Health of the Directorate-General for Health.

Therefore, he stressed, when Portugal has more than 80% of people with at least one dose and almost 80% with full vaccination, the probability of the population to develop SARS-CoV-2 infection is decreasing, which has an impact on pressure and circulation of the virus in the community.

He stressed, however, that this does not mean that there cannot be cases among those vaccinated, since the effectiveness and efficacy of vaccines are not 100%, "but rarely" this happens.

«All of this allows us today to have support in the various variables discussed here in the evolution towards more flexible measures such as the use of masks», stressed Válter Fonseca.

The law that is in force on the mandatory use of masks in public spaces was promulgated by the President of the Republic on June 11, for a period of 90 days, and should expire on Sunday.