This phase is activated when the transmission chains are established in the country, as this is an active epidemic situation.

The National Plan for Preparing and Responding to the disease by the new coronavirus establishes the response phases, which include three levels and six sub-levels, according to the risk assessment for covid-19 and its impact for Portugal.

According to the document of the Directorate-General for Health (DGS), the mitigation phase, red alert and response level three (the highest of a scale of three), corresponds to the presence of cases of infection with the covid-19 virus in national territory and is divided into the sub-levels of "transmission chains in closed environments" and "transmission chains in open environments".

In the mitigation phase, the transmission chains of the virus that causes the covid-19 disease are already established in Portugal, as this is an epidemic or active pandemic situation.

In this context, the measures to contain the disease are insufficient and the response is focused on mitigating the effects of covid-19 and reducing its spread, in order to minimize “morbidity and mortality [ratio between the number of deaths caused by a given disease, in a location and within a certain period of time], and / or until the emergence of a vaccine or new effective treatment”.

The plan also indicates that the mitigation phase is the last response phase before the recovery phase.

Starting next midnight, hospitals and health centres will have to adapt to new rules to respond to this phase of mitigation.

The general director of Health, Graça Freitas, admitted, in today's (25 March) daily press conference on the situation of the pandemic in the country, that Portugal has community transmission of the virus that causes the covid-19 disease, but assured that it is not uncontrolled.

"We have community transmission, not exuberant, not uncontrolled, but we do," she said.

Graça Freitas said that as of midnight today, the new model to address the response to covid-19 will come into operation.

"We are going to move from the measures of the containment phase to the measures of the mitigation phase. As with all changes, the transition phase may have some turbulence" because "one does not change the assistance paradigm overnight without turbulence".