Marta Temido, the Minister of Health, has once again appealed to the people for compliance with preventive measures against Covid-19, stressing that the government is aware of an increase in movement across the country while remote working is decreasing.

Temido has stated that, despite the fact that the process of easing lockdown started less than 15 days ago and is still in the first phase, mobility is increasing and there are fewer people adhering to remote working, adding that whenever possible people should choose “teleworking and should restrict social contacts to the minimum necessary”.

"The virus continues to be present in Europe," she said, stressing that, therefore, preventive measures cannot be eased totally.

Asked about the situation regarding the administering of the controversial AstraZeneca vaccine, the minister stressed that there had been a “pause” and not a “suspension” in using this particular vaccine in the country, reiterating the confidence in vaccines in general.

"Any vaccine, or any medicine, undergoes an evaluation by the European medicine agency [EMA], which has decades of reliable and transparent work", said the minister, recalling that all Portugal did was to follow the EMA recommendations in pausing the vaccinations using this brand.

“Vaccines are safe. They have, like any medicine, a context of indications and restrictions and countries have to follow them”, she said.

Regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine, the minister explained that Portugal initially had an age restriction, only while waiting for more studies to be concluded, and then started to apply the vaccine to the age group over 65 as well.

“Then, while the EMA was doing a complementary assessment, we paused the process. The information was later known, the European drug agency said that the benefits of this vaccine outweigh the risks and that eventual occurrences in vaccinated people - to have a causal correlation, which has not yet been confirmed - are rare in the context of the millions of vaccinated people, calling attention to health professionals and people themselves to be attentive, as they must be attentive to the taking and effect of any medication”, she explained.

“The process has not been suspended. It was put on pause. There is a difference,” she insisted.

The official also said that the plan is now to catch up with days lost due to the “pause”, stressing: "Naturally, we believe that the best way to gain credibility is to communicate with transparency," she said.

As for the epidemiological situation in Portugal, the minister said that it currently remains stable, with a decreasing trend in the number of new cases, hospitalisations and deaths. However she went on to draw attention to the issues currently facing other countries in Europe which she described as being “adverse and worrying”.

“Taking into account the European context, in which Portugal is on a counter-cycle, with the effective risk [of transmissibility] increasing, even at levels below 1 and in a context of the prevalence of the English variant of 70%, we should maintain high attention and special caution regarding the way we approach the coming weeks,” she said.

She also said that what is important right now in Portugal is to control levels of incidence because: "If this doesn't happen, then we run the risk of not moving forward but instead having to roll back measures," she warned.

“We hope to be able to maintain the risk levels of transmission and, above all, of incidence that will allow us to continue to make progress, but we have to be attentive and that involves everyone,” she concluded.