The variant associated with India, considered of concern, appeared "at a time when the Portuguese population already had a considerable degree of immunity" and was "a little surprising for everyone," said the researcher, adding that, with no cases in April, suddenly, in May, is "with almost 5 percent of cases Covid-19 in Portugal.

João Paulo Gomes was speaking at the Infarmed experts meeting in Lisbon, attended by the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister and members of the executive, the first after the end of the state of emergency.

According to João Paulo Gomes, from the 800 genomes already sequenced in May, 4.6 percent are associated to this Indian variant, which represents 37 confirmed cases, but according to estimates it may reach 160 cases.

Despite being estimates, the researcher considered that they are "quite robust", being "expected that this variant is being disseminated in the community and that there is already community transmission".

"These 37 cases are only the laboratory confirmed ones. Naturally, we are talking about many more," he said, believing that the variant is in "many more districts" than the nine pointed out, which indicates "the need for strict border control".

According to the researcher, the cases of this variant are always associated to trips to India, Nepal and Bangladesh, therefore advocating a strict border control.

Gomes explained that there are three variants detected in India, but the one that is circulating most is the only one dubbed "variant of concern" by the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC).

There are also nine cases associated with another variant detected in India that "also causes concern", but not to the same level as the previous one.

"The number of introductions was very high and we can also see that these introductions were caused by people who went to India and Nepal," said the researcher.

João Paulo Gomes warned that "the new variants will continue to exist, especially while the situation in some countries is not under control and with the opening of borders" those variants will also circulate in Portugal.