According to Lusa Jaime Nina, an infectiologist at Egas Moniz Hospital, a significant decrease in the number of infections will only begin to occur "when the impact of vaccination, particularly on the elderly and homes, begins to be felt.

"By the end of March or the beginning of April, if we have not halved the number of deaths that we have at the moment, I am very surprised," he said.

Jaime Nina also said that it "is confusing" that the government "continues to insist only on masking, confinement and, to a certain extent, social distancing" and that only a "minority of cases" are being screened in Portugal.

For the infectiologist, the National Health Service "is already having a poor response at the moment" to patients who are not covid, which will have effects on mortality in the coming years.

"A tumour in the colon or breast does not kill immediately afterwards. It takes several years to kill. Due to delays in diagnosis and treatment in 2020, the consequences in terms of mortality will be felt in 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024", he warned.

Also speaking to Lusa, virologist Pedro Simas considered that "it was expected that, due to the significant increase in the number of contacts at Christmas and in the New Year, infections would increase".

Pedro Simas argued that, given the epidemiological situation in Portugal, it was important to protect people who belonged to risk groups and who were outside homes.

"Between October 1 and December 15, 75.5 percent of the mortality came from those people and that makes it necessary to protect those groups at risk," noted Pedro Simas, who said he agreed with the guidance given to public hospitals in the Lisbon and Tagus Valley region to suspend non-urgent activity and raise their contingency plans due to the worsening epidemiological situation.

"What is expected is greater pressure on the National Health Service. This is expected to be the beginning of an exponential phase and we must prepare ourselves. I agree with that," he said.