“Portugal should be preparing to face viral spread in winter”, says health honcho
Portugal is in danger of failing to prepare effectively for a possible resurgence of Covid-19 cases in the winter, said public health doctor Ricardo Mexia this weekend. “We already had some time to prepare after that initial clash”, in which the exponential growth of cases that occurred in countries like Spain was avoided, but, “from the point of view of resource preparation, there was no real planning and the problems we face in the Lisbon and Vale do Tejo region are still too much in sight,” said Mexia in statements to the Lusa news agency.
img decoding=”async” style=”margin-right: 10px; margin-bottom: 5px; float: left;” src=”http://algarvedailynews.com/images/news2/81winter-spread.jpg” alt=”81winter spread” width=”160″ height=”107″ />Portugal is in danger of failing to prepare effectively for a possible resurgence of Covid-19 cases in the winter, said public health doctor Ricardo Mexia this weekend. “We already had some time to prepare after that initial clash”, in which the exponential growth of cases that occurred in countries like Spain was avoided, but, “from the point of view of resource preparation, there was no real planning and the problems we face in the Lisbon and Vale do Tejo region are still too much in sight,” said Mexia in statements to the Lusa news agency.
“It is important that we manage to reduce the spread of the disease in the country. If, when winter comes, we are at this level still, the possibility that things will grow even more difficult to control is real”, he warned.
The doctor, who is also president of the National Association of Public Health Physicians, pointed out that “public health units have not been reinforced with the necessary response capacity to deal with situations in good time”. “We should now, during a period when we are not so pressured by other health problems, such as the flu, to be able to push the numbers down, but for that we have to put resources on the ground to be able to control the situation”, he defended.
Moreover, Mexia said he was “surprised that there are no more measures to strengthen public health units”. However, he admitted that such reinforcement may be included in the preparation for the next academic year and the autumn months that follow and that coincide with the beginning of the seasonal flu season. It will be the first time that seasonal flu will meet Covid-19 and the flu vaccination season should start earlier, especially with regard to health professionals, he said. The symptoms of Covid-19 and the flu are “similar at an early stage”, he stressed, stating that “it probably becomes difficult to distinguish” between cases from one and the other, if there is no reinforcement of laboratory diagnoses.
On the other hand, the measures taken by society as a whole to prevent the spread of Covid-19 (hand hygiene, wearing a mask, etc.) “are also useful to reduce the spread of flu and, therefore, there may be an advantage in this regard” if these actions continue. “If we can anticipate the flu vaccination season and ensure that coverage is broader, particularly with regard to health professionals, we may even have a milder flu season,” said Ricardo Mexia, indicating that this would be useful for as it would not put the health system “in a more difficult situation”, as it will also have to deal with “the foreseeable number of cases of Covid-19”.
But the most important thing, he argues, is that everyone should be prepared “for a slightly more severe winter, in the sense of eventually having a greater number of cases” of Covid-19. This involves Portugal being able to “quickly identify cases, having a laboratory diagnosis available” rapidly, giving the ability to isolate cases and place contacts in quarantine, offering ventilators and intensive care beds if neccessary.
Mexia points to “adaptation” as a key word for the coming autumn and winter: “My expectation is that now, with time, with more resources to plan this new reality, things will be better prepared for winter”, he declared. By maintaining measures such as telework and distance classes to some degree, it will be possible to “reduce the likelihood of spreading the disease and also reduce the need for more drastic and more widespread measures,” he said.
The Covid-19 pandemic has already claimed more than 560,000 deaths worldwide, and infected more than 12.52 million people in 196 countries and territories, according to a report by French agency AFP.