"As of February 16 [Tuesday], we estimate that this variant represents around 48% of all covid-19 cases in Portugal," João Paulo Gomes, INSA researcher and coordinator of the study on diversity, told Lusa genetics of the new coronavirus in Portugal.

According to INSA data, the incidence in the country of this variant of the virus that causes covid-19, considered more contagious, has been growing since the beginning of the year, registering a constant increase over several weeks, in the period in which the highest number of infections was registered in Portugal.

João Paulo Gomes estimates that the variant originating in the United Kingdom represented around 8% of cases of the covid-19 disease in the first week of the year, increasing to 13.4% in the second week of January and to 24.7% in the third week .

According to the expert, this growing incidence of the variant “certainly contributed” to the emergence of the so-called `third wave 'that occurred in January with the exponential increase in cases of covid-19 across the country, although it was not the“ factor that weighed more ”.

"In the contribution he made, not only the high number of introductions of this variant that took place during the second half of December - the return of Portuguese immigrants for Christmas and tourists from the United Kingdom -, but also its high transmissibility", explained the specialist.

Regarding the variant originating in South Africa, INSA only identified four cases in Portugal, and no case of the SARS-CoV-2 variant initially discovered in Manaus, Brazil, was registered until Thursday.

Baltazar Nunes, responsible for INSA's Epidemiological Research Unit, told Lusa that “the evolution of the pandemic in each continent, country and region has been diverse, with different phases and times of growth and a decrease in incidence”.

In view of this, the designation “third wave must be contextualized”, said Baltazar Nunes, for whom “numbering the growth phases of the epidemic is a very simplistic way of analyzing its evolution”.

“In reality, we have observed different phases of growth and decrease in the number of cases, which have been determined by the introduction of the virus in the population, by new more transmissible variants, by the implementation or survey of non-pharmacological measures, by population behaviors (festivities and periods holidays), the seasons or the implementation of vaccination programs ”, said Baltazar Nunes.

According to the expert, for these reasons the variation in the incidence at “the local, regional, national and global level is very difficult to predict”, especially in the context of restrictions and travel patterns that have changed with the pandemic.

According to him, the incidence of covid-19 is high in practically all European countries, having as criterion a prevalence of more than 60 new cases per 100,000 people in the previous 14 days, with some exceptions such as Iceland, where there are 10 new cases of infection per 100,000 inhabitants.

"There is a possibility that the increase in incidence that is now occurring in some European countries may be seen in other countries, but the gradient from West to East no longer exists," said Baltazar Nunes, exemplifying with the cases of Greece and Finland which, in different European latitudes, coincide in the growing trend of cases they present.

"The spatial distribution will depend on the effectiveness that the control measures implemented have in each country and the speed and effect that vaccination has in those same countries", underlined the specialist.