"Most of the cases that we are identifying now are cases in the month of December", said João Paulo Gomes, also coordinator of the study on genetic diversity of the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 in Portugal.
The new strain, known as the UK strain, "is already in Portugal". "We don't know how long ago, because most of the cases that we are identifying now are cases from the month of December. But, about six weeks ago, in collaboration with the Instituto Gulbenkian Ciência, we did a kind of screening", explained the researcher, admitting, however, that there may already be transmission chains associated with this new variant.
As the National Institute of Health Doctor Ricardo Jorge said, 16 cases of the new coronavirus variant recently detected in the United Kingdom have been identified in mainland Portugal.
These cases join 18 others in Madeira, according to information advanced on December 28 by the president of the Regional Government, Miguel Albuquerque.
However, the screening carried out in the middle of last November, "with an excellent geographical representation", shows that "circulation started recently in Portugal", he guaranteed.
The new, more contagious variant was signaled in the context of the update of the “Study of the genetic diversity of the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus (covid-19) in Portugal", developed and coordinated by the Ricardo Jorge Institute, in collaboration with the Gulbenkian Institute of Science.
The fact that it is more contagious does not lead João Paulo Gomes to defend more restrictions or containment measures.
“I think that there are no additional measures to be taken. There is, above all, a need to comply with existing measures”, he defended, referring that “this variant cannot overcome masks more easily than the other variants".
Therefore, he considered, "if people maintain social distance and comply with the rules, wearing a mask when they are in the presence of other people, they are relatively safeguarded".
The problem, underlined the researcher, is that “when we are not protected - for example in a restaurant or when we are with the family at home or when we are with some friends and we lower the bar a bit”.
"At this point, this variant will certainly have a greater capacity to transmit", he warned.
“I think that the vaccine is certainly not in danger with the appearance of this or other variants”, considered the scientist, explaining that “the immune response created by a vaccine is very complex and very complete. However, it’s "always a cause for concern".