At the update meeting on Infectious Diseases at the Curry Cabral Hospital, taking place today and Friday in Lisbon, Graça Freitas told journalists “We have an important milestone to cross, which is to reduce mortality to the levels that the ECDC (European Center for Disease Prevention Control) advocates”, which is 20 deaths per million inhabitants.
Graça Freitas added that the country is in the first phase of reducing measures and caution is still needed, until it moves to the second stage.
“We will wait for the virus to reach the minimum possible to give us some freedom with regard to the use of masks”, but the measures will always depend on the “dynamics of the virus”, she said.
Regarding the issues that parents have raised because of the learning processes, Graça Freitas said that there are also those who defend and say that the learning processes are not altered by the use of masks.
“Children are used to it and, therefore, we are calmly looking at the risks”, she said, noting that the Government will decide when it will slow down measures.
Regarding the new guidelines for high-risk contacts which are cohabitants who do not have a booster dose, nor are they in the recovery phase of the disease, Graça Freitas explained that they have the recommendation to carry out two rapid antigen tests to compensate for the fact they will not be required to isolate.
According to the DGS, the first test should be carried out “as early as possible” and the second between the third and fifth day. In the event that they are positive, the person should ‘withdraw from the social environment’ to avoid transmitting to others.
Asked about a possible reduction in the period of isolation of symptomatic and asymptomatic people, Graça Freitas said that “there is a gradual plan to reduce the number of days that people will be isolating”, which is expected to be five days, but not until the next stage of the lifting of measures.
Graça Freitas asked that, after isolation, the public continue to take precautionary measures in relation to physical distance from other people, the use of masks and staying in airy spaces.
Regarding timescale for moving to the next phase, the DGS Public Health specialist estimated April 3rd as a possible date, but reiterated that this is just a projection.
“The projections are fine-tuned every day with the data we collect, therefore it may be a little earlier, a little later, it is just a projection to guide us”, she justified.
Graça Freitas also spoke about the concern expressed in recent days regarding the growth of the Ómicron variant lineage (BA.2) that is becoming dominant. “We have to be attentive, monitor all these phenomena very well, have good epidemiological surveillance, so that signs are detected early and that these signs serve as a compass”, so that decision-makers can then take appropriate measures in proportion to the risk, she said.
“We have always had adaptive and flexible strategies depending on the development of the epidemic and this has been a characteristic of our country”, said Freitas, stating that actions taken throughout these two years of pandemic have been “appropriate to the risk and appropriate to the epidemic situation”.