The Government has extended the state of alert until Friday 22, and today, in the Council of Ministers, it should extend the deadline, maintaining the use of the mandatory mask for a few more weeks. At least, this is what the Undersecretary of State and Health António Lacerda Sales said yesterday, referring to the fact that the country must continue to “take safety measures for the citizen”, underlining that, “in the coming days, it will be possible to analyze whether there has been whether or not an impact of the Easter period “on incidence and mortality. “If there aren’t any, we can reverse the measures.”
Pulmonologist Raquel Duarte, who at the invitation of António Costa’s government led the team in charge of elaborating the deflation proposals with a view to reducing the spread of covid-19, told DN yesterday that she believes “sensible” has let herself go. for after Easter a decision on the measures involving the state of alert, since this “was a period of great mobility”, but, he defended, the country “is in a situation of stability that allows it to take the next step” with respect to these measures. The important thing “is to maintain the protection of the most elderly and vulnerable” and, in this sense, it is necessary “to anticipate the 2nd booster dose, or 4th dose, since the majority of this population is over 65 and vaccinated a long time ago “.
In his view, “the waiting period after Easter seemed sensible to me and reinforces the precautionary attitude that Portugal had during the pandemic”, but the truth is that “we are reaching a phase of stability, which is largely the result of the protective factor of the vaccine, as the first booster dose is associated with a high reduction of severe forms of the disease, ie we are not having a great effect in terms of hospitalizations or mortality. Therefore, I would say that the current scenario imposes a need, which is to protect the elderly and vulnerable populations, those who are most at risk of developing severe forms of the disease “.
And this need concerns not only the individual protection measures, which are the responsibility of everyone, in the places where these people are concentrated, and, “obviously through vaccination. So now we need to vaccinate them, anticipating the second booster dose, as has it has already been recommended by the ECDC itself, by the European Center for Disease Control and as other countries of the European Union are already doing “, he stressed.
Masks in schools should have been abolished by now
The doctor of the Centro Hospitalar de Vila Nova de Gaia and professor at the Faculty of Medicine of Porto reinforces what he has been defending for some time. “The country has reached a phase of the pandemic in which the important thing is not to maintain mandatory measures, but to develop the perception of risk by the population so that they take the necessary protective care, especially when in contact with the elderly or vulnerable. “.
As for the rest of the population, “it is time to remove the mandatory mask but keep the recommendation, because, of course, the pandemic is not over and the virus continues to circulate. What is needed is that every citizen knows when he should keep the protective measures, “he said.
The same has argued about schools, considering that the mask should have already been abolished. “It makes no sense to expect schools to behave differently from what is proposed for other places. What is needed at the moment is to keep schools ventilated and with adequate ventilation for their spaces”.
The doctor also reiterated that the need to anticipate the 4th dose has to do with the fact that everyone can reduce measures in other areas. “When I speak of the second booster dose, it is precisely to go ahead with the reduction of measures, but protecting the populations that suffer most from the severe forms of the disease”, he said.
“We cannot forget that older populations were the first to receive the vaccine and if we really want to protect this population, we have to vaccinate it at this stage. And then, vaccinate it again, when there is a greater risk of infection”, because ” it is vaccination that allows us to live as normal a life as possibleL”.
Raquel Duarte once again draws attention: “There are still viruses in circulation and there are a number of acquired behaviors that are here to stay, even after the end of the pandemic.” Today, regardless of SARS-CoV-2 infection, “there are behaviors that will not be acceptable, such as, given the possibility that the person is infected with a respiratory virus, going to work with symptoms, with fever or cough , or without a mask. This person must be able to easily justify his absence from the workplace without any sanction. “But, he also stresses, he hopes that everyone, population, workers, entrepreneurs, etc., have learned the lesson that” it is necessary adequately ventilate the spaces “.
As for measures including alertness, isolation of infected people and mandatory use of masks in enclosed spaces, Raquel Duarte believes Portugal can move forward. “The use of a mask is only recommended or strongly recommended, with some exceptions, health and home services, for the protection of the most vulnerable”, because even in “public transport I think it should only be strongly recommended for people over 65 years of age. “. years and during peak hours, as some countries have done, not just for the risk itself, but for the sake of social peace “.
Carlos Antunes fears that the 4th dose could wear down the population for now
Professor Carlos Antunes, who is part of the team that has modeled the evolution of covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, agrees that the country has achieved a stability that allows it to run the moderate risk of going towards the fall of the mandatory mask and issue its recommendation. However, this risk must be well transmitted to the population so that those who have more social contacts with the elderly or patients with more comorbidities can strengthen their protection.
The analyst, who also defends the decline in the mandatory mask in schools and other spaces, with the exception of health services and homes, says the government has two options: either agree to take a moderate risk and move on to ease the measures. .or, if we want to maintain the political target of 20 deaths per million inhabitants, we will have to wait not two weeks, but another month or a month and a half. This is because the decline in deaths, which are recorded in 95% between 70 and 80 years, is very slow, and if the Easter period has an impact on the incidence, with an increase in the number of cases and even in mortality, this target will also be launched further.