At a press conference in Russian, the Belgian Hans Kluge pointed out that the new coronavirus, like everyone else, "changes over time" and made sure to understand the alarm at the emergence of variants such as the so-called B117, identified last September in the United Kingdom.

Kluge argued that all European countries should increase their efforts to trace genetic sequences of SARS-CoV-2 samples and exchange information on them.

Oleg Benesh, head of WHO Europe's immunology department, stressed that there were "legitimate doubts" about the efficacy of vaccines already available against new variants, but that "there was no evidence that immunity acquired [with vaccines] did not protect".

"The vaccine generates immunity against virus antigens, this immunity is polyclonal, i.e. it produces antibodies against different fragments and antigens of the virus and that is why we expect them to work, we have no evidence to the contrary", he said.

Hans Kluge indicated that last year there were 26 million cases of infection and over 580,000 deaths in the European region.

"Since the beginning of the year, more than 280 million people in the European region have been in total confinement and during the past week the number of countries announcing partial confinement has increased. The region continues to experience very high rates of infection transmission", he noted.

The WHO European Director pointed out that "2021 will still be a year of pandemic, but it faces a more manageable and predictable situation", to which the vaccination campaigns already taking place in 31 European countries will contribute.

"Ten countries concentrate 95 percent of all vaccines, so we have to work hard to get a uniform vaccination in all," he said.

Portugal has registered at least 72 cases of infection with the new variant of SARS-CoV-2, according to the National Institute of Health Dr. Ricardo Jorge (INSA), which identified them in 28 municipalities.

In the latest update of genetic analyses of the new coronavirus, released on Tuesday, the INSA said that data on the new, more contagious variant detected in the UK "point to the existence of community transmission".