Covid-19: DGS says that wearing a mask must be decided by each hospital

At this time, the disease is in a phase of transmissibility "a little higher"

The Directorate General for Health (DGS) defended today that the use of protective masks must be decided by each hospital, in view of the evolution of cases of Covid-19 in each unit and to protect the most fragile.

The director of the Program for Prevention and Control of Infections and Resistance to Antimicrobials (PPCIRA) of the DGS José Artur Paiva, spoke to the Lusa agency after the Centro Hospitalar Lisboa Norte, which includes the hospitals Santa Maria and Pulido Valente, imposed the use of mask during hospitalization for professionals and visitors.

The intensive care physician explained that each health unit has its own local PPCIRA unit and, as such, the decision of the hospital center “is perfectly normal”, within the scope of “a sensible measure associated with the specific situation of the hospital in question”.

For the DGS, the focus must be «on two essential vectors»: the protection of the most fragile and the accountability of citizens.

«SARS-CoV-2 has not gone away» and is now characterized by «an endemic situation, with fluctuations in the degree of incidence, like other respiratory viruses, cold flu viruses, etc».

At this time, the disease is in a "slightly greater" transmissibility phase in view of the entry of a new, more transmissible variant, but without increasing the severity of cases, he stressed.

José Artur Paiva explained that «the most fragile» must be protected – «and the hospital patient is a fragile patient in a large part of the cases» –, because the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes covid-19, has a « more moderate to severe degree of expression in the elderly and in those who have diseases that weaken the immune system».

On the other hand, citizens should bear the responsibility to wear a mask when they have respiratory symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, sore throat, to avoid transmitting respiratory viruses to others.

«Within these principles, each PPCIRA local unit must adapt to the evolution of its cases and, therefore, if Santa Maria verified an increase in the number of cases, it seems to us clearly sensible that, for the protection of the weakest, it decided that , with patients, health professionals and visitors are wearing masks», he underlined.

Asked whether these principles should also be applied in homes, José Artur Paiva said yes, given local situations of increased incidence of the disease.

«We have to realize that we are in an environment of social normality, therefore, there is no alarm situation. There is no detection of an increase in the number of serious cases or hospitalizations due to covid and, therefore, there is no reason for us to return to the widespread use of the mask», but in view of local situations of increased incidence and of people of particular fragility, contact is made with masks, he defended.

The doctor maintained that, if there is an increase in cases in a certain region or in a home, "it is a sensible idea" to adopt these "two philosophies of behavior" that are fundamental and that allow local decisions to be taken.

The latest seasonal health response report – Surveillance and Monitoring by DGS indicates an increase in new cases reported seven days after infection by SARS-CoV-2 cases per 100.000 inhabitants in week 33 (31/07/2023 to 20/08/ 2023), 35% more compared to the previous week.