The data is contained in a report by the National Institute of Health Doctor Ricardo Jorge (INSA) on the genetic diversity of the virus that causes Covid-19, released today and which confirms that Delta was already the prevalent variant in the week of 21st to 27th of June. “As expected, its frequency has increased in all regions” in the last month, with a “strong increase” in the North, where it already represents 71.1 percent of infections, in Madeira (85.7 percent ) and in the Azores (64.7 percent) , advances the institute.
Portugal is, in recent days, accelerating the pace of vaccination against Covid-19 to respond to the rapid spread of the Delta variant, considered 60 percent more transmissible than Alpha, with the `task force' that coordinates the logistics aiming for the administration of about 850,000 doses per week. According to the INSA, of the total Delta variant sequences analyzed, 55 have the additional mutation K417N in the `spike' protein (sub-lineage AY.1), which means that, in the national sample in June, there has been no evidence of a growing trend. Regarding the Alpha variant, initially associated with the United Kingdom and which came to be predominant in Portugal, INSA said that “it continues with a strong decrease in frequency nationwide”, with a relative frequency of 9.8 percent. “The relative frequency of the Beta and Gamma variants, initially associated with South Africa and Brazil (Manaus), respectively, remains low and without a growing trend in the latest national samplings”, the report also states.
Among other variants of interest already detected in Portugal, the institute points out the circulation of the variant with the B.1.621 lineage, initially detected in Colombia, which presented relative frequencies between 1 percent and 0.4 percent, as well as Lambda, with marked circulation in the Peru and Chile, which was detected in only two cases in Portugal since April this year. The INSA has already analysed 10,824 sequences of the genome of the new coronavirus, obtained from samples collected in more than 100 laboratories, hospitals and institutions, representing 288 municipalities in Portugal.
In June, the institute announced a strengthening of surveillance of the variants of the virus that causes covid-19 in circulation in Portugal, through its continuous monitoring. This new strategy allows for a better genetic characterization of SARS-CoV-2, since the data will be analyzed continuously, and there will no longer be time intervals between analyses, which were essentially dedicated to specific studies of genetic characterization requested by public health.