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In recent years, the observation of dolphins entering the Tejo River has occurred again with some frequency.

In fact, on the pillars of the 25 de Abril bridge, are represented some species that historically entered the Tejo until the mid-1950s, such as the common dolphin, the bottlenose dolphin, the sperm whale and the killer whale.

But off Lisbon, whether at the mouth of the River Tejo or a little further away, whales can also be seen.

In recent years, some species of baleen whales (Mysticeti) have been seen passing between Cabo da Roca and Cabo Espichel. Sometimes they come closer to the coast, Cabo Raso or Meco, and feed mainly on schools of small fish such as sardines, horse mackerel or mackerel.

It is because they share the same diet with common dolphins that it is possible to observe these species together, sometimes both in a synchronized performance in the capture of schools.

On past October 24th, during a birdwatching trip, several flocks of gannets were seen flying in circles and throwing themselves into the sea, which indicated the presence of fish schools on the surface.

A few minutes later, a whistle was heard very close to the boat, followed by a long back, blue with gray spots with a typical dorsal fin of the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), twice the size of the boat (which had 8.5 meters).

The fin whale it is the second largest animal in the world, after the blue whale, and can reach a length of up to 25.9 meters.

With the dolphins swimming in front of it, the huge jaw of the whale opened to ingest the small fish less than 20 meters from the boat.

A few days later, this feat was repeated with another fin whale off Guincho.Unlike what happens in the Azores or Madeira archipelagos, this type of sighting in mainland Portugal is not common.…/baleias-as-portas-de-lisboa/

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Lisbon, January 25, 2022 (Lusa) – Instituto do Sangue da Transplantação today appealed for the contribution of all potential donors, at a “particularly demanding time” due to the covid-19 pandemic and in the face of “a great difficulty in maintaining stable blood and blood component supply reserves”.

The situation has “caused a large reduction in the number of donors and the postponement of previously scheduled collection sessions”.

“Despite all the reinforcement in the promotion of blood donation, namely through radio ‘spots’ and on social networks, it is necessary to mobilize all those who are in a position to make a blood donation, namely those who have never donated blood and those who have not made a donation for more than a year, thus contributing to the essential stability of reserves. It is very important to immediately reinforce blood donations, because only then can patients receive the treatments they need”, appeals the IPST.

“Portuguese hospitals need between 800 and 1,000 units of blood and blood components every day and it is never too much to remember that blood components have a limited storage time (35 to 42 days for erythrocyte concentrates and five to seven days for platelets).

Blood donors, being men, can only make their donation every three months and, if they are women, every four months”, was added.

According to the institute, “to the present date (…) the reserves of hospitals and in the IPST were between 15 and 47 days considering the reserve of erythrocyte concentrates in hospitals, almost all blood groups are needed “O positive”, “O negative”, “B negative”, “A positive” and “A negative”.

The institute recalls that if the candidates for the donation have had Covid19 they must wait 14 days and those who had the booster vaccine must wait seven days to apply.

The IPST provides information on donations on the website and information on collection locations at

PLEASE CHECK the links to find locations nearest to you.

Call or email first to enquire their times of operation and conditions for blood donation. Information also on website

Organizations and locations also here:



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Judicial Police tackling Lisbon Gangs – 153 arrested  and over 400 searches conducted in 2021

Protecting the population, repressing and preventing violent crime against groups of young people throughout the metropolitan area is the objective of the Judicial Police’s (PJ) strategy. The secretary general of the Internal Security System (SIS) also created a mixed team that brings together police and undercover forces to combat the phenomenon.

During the last year, operations took place by the PJ in several sensitive neighbourhoods of Greater Lisbon. Out of the spotlight, dozens of arrests and hundreds of searches were made. The objective is to repress and prevent violent crime throughout the metropolitan area, within the scope of a strategy defined by the national directorate together with the Lisbon and Tagus Valley Directorate (DLVT) of this police to stop groups of young criminals whose activity had started to climb in the middle of a pandemic, since 2020.

In 2021, the situation intensified, not only due to the amount of crimes, but also due to the violence between rival groups – reaching a high point with the death of Rafael Lopes aged 19, in the Laranjeiras metro in broad daylight – but at that time the PJ already had its operatives on the ground and referenced dozens of members of these “gangs”.

In an assessment made at the request of the DN, the Judicial Police presents impressive numbers that demonstrate the dimension of this “war” that it began to fight. According to official data from this police specialized in the investigation of violent crime, in 2021 alone, 380 inquiries were opened by the DLVT involving members of these youth groups – which means that, at least, they made an equal or greater number of victims.

The result was a succession of operations, with more than 400 searches at home and outside the home, which resulted in a voluminous total of 153 detainees. Of these, 41% were in preventive detention and/or with an electronic bracelet.

Coming from the designated sensitive urban areas of the municipalities of Amadora, Loures, Odivelas, Cascais and Lisbon, these “gangs” consisting mainly of young people between the ages of 16 and 21 were responsible for dozens of crimes, robberies, kidnappings, homicides, computer fraud and possession of prohibited melee and firearms.

Types of Gangs

The PJ distinguishes these groups from the classic “gangs” of organized crime. In a general profile, taking into account the knowledge that was gathered from all the detainees, those who follow this phenomenon point out that these groups “are less organized, resort less to the use of firearms and, although there are cases of homicide, they use less extreme violence”.

As a rule, “they are groups that know each other from school and their victims are sometimes classmates, have family members with criminal records, their families are dysfunctional and, in general, single parents, have some connection to drug trafficking (small trafficking directed only to consumption)”.

They are also united by a need to create an identity, a sense of belonging to something, sharing music of resistance to the rule of law, anti-authority, with their own laws, such as RAP and Drill (hip hop genre, with violent content).

As the DN had already reported, the PJ has active inquiries involving young people from about three dozen of these groups. “The 700 Gang”, the “Boba 503”, the “300 niggers” (in addition to the 200 niggers, there are also the 500) and the “RBL Gang”, in Amadora; the “PDS Gang”, the “RDM Gang” and the “PMBrutoz”, in Loures; the “RDP 6225”, in Vila Franca de Xira, the “Five Kapa”, of Odivelas, the “FDL 2”, of Sintra, and the “AKJ” of Cascais, are some of the juvenile gang crime groups that have been in the PJ’s sights.

The activity of these groups began to grow in 2020, with the PJ reporting several developments, mainly robberies of people and commercial establishments, at gunpoint involving young people aged 17 – 20 years. “Immediately there was a decisive action by the PJ”, recalls an official source of this police that is monitoring this process.

The first warning sign had already been at the end of 2019 when aggression began to spill over into the rivalry between the groups and their activity began to involve greater violence, culminating in the murder of a 24-year-old student at the Faculty of Sciences, in Lisbon, who tried to resist the assault of which he was the victim.

Those responsible were detained, they were 16, 17 and 18 years old, and were part of Mem Martins’ “FDL 2” gang, according to what had been ascertained so far by the police.

In May 2021, the PJ detained 20 young people aged between 17 and 22 in an operation for “strong indications of the practice of crimes of robbery, kidnapping, qualified theft, computer fraud and possession of a prohibited weapon”, a group that, according to the official statement, was the “AKJ gang”, which essentially operated in the municipalities of Cascais and Sintra, where most of them resided.

Brag on social media

The investigation had started in December 2019 and started from the alarm that the actions of these young people was causing in the community in general and in the school in particular, and the authors, said the PJ, “disclosed videos of their actions on cyberspace platforms and on social networks, bragging about the crimes they committed and threatening victims if they reported them. Likewise, they also challenged rival groups to meetings aimed at fighting for control of territories”.

Operation “T3” – so called because the AJK’s “headquarters” was an apartment identified in this way by the people themselves – was based on more than three dozen investigations into crimes of robbery with kidnapping, robbery with firearms and blank weapons and qualified thefts, which occurred in the municipality of Cascais.

The first reported cases, reported to the PSP (and later all together with the PJ’s process) referred to thefts that could be considered trifle, such as cell phones, bicycles, motorcycles and small amounts of money, were it not for the aggressiveness involved. “Over time, however, its danger and violence increased with gratuitous attacks on victims”, says a police source who was involved in these investigations.

One of the situations attributed to him by one of the elements of the group is the stabbing of a young person at the Oeiras station. The assault allegedly took place in the context of a feud between gangs (the minor would belong to OneFamily, a rival of the AJK). On Instagram, the perpetrator bragged about the feat and promised he would repeat it. The PJ also has several videos in which members of the group threaten and provoke rival groups with melee and firearms.

Another case in which this AJK may have been involved was an attempted robbery on the train between Algés and Caxias, close to midnight, in which the victim was so badly beaten that he needed hospital treatment.

In May 2020, there were about two dozen that the PJ managed to count in the video surveillance images of a store in Cascais that robbed at 19:00. They violently attacked the employees and the owner of the establishment and when the PSP surprised them, in the middle of the robbery, it was received with a lot of hostility and resistance, with two agents being attacked while they were handcuffing the suspects. One of them gave one of the policemen a “rear naked choke” blow.

SIS join the police for prevention

Despite this resurgence registered by the PJ since 2020, the growth of the phenomenon did not reach the Annual Internal Security Report of that year. According to this document that gathers the criminal participations registered by the security forces, that year “youth crime resumed the downward trend that has been observed in previous years”, with 524 fewer records (-33.3%)”. The same downward trend is pointed out for group crime, “with 577 fewer records (-11.1%) compared to 2019”.

Even so, last November, in the aftermath of the death of the young man at the Laranjeiras metro station, which caused some social alarm, the new secretary general of the Internal Security System (SIS), Paulo Vizeu Pinheiro, signed an order for it to be constituted a “mixed crime prevention team for violent, serious and group crime”, an instrument provided for in the Internal Security Law to put security forces and intelligence services to work together to prevent specific criminal phenomena.

“Violent, serious and group crime, as a sociological phenomenon of a criminal nature, contains a very diverse set of deviant activities whose characterization, prevention and repression are complex and require a high level of coordination between the various Security Forces involved. Aware of the challenges of inter- institutional articulation associated with this matter, of the media attention given to events that fall within this phenomenon, which potentiate a feeling of insecurity in the community , the Secretary General of the Internal Security System decided, after consultation with the leaders of the forces and security services (FSS), create a mixed crime prevention team, dedicated exclusively to this category of crimes”, confirmed to DN the Cabinet of Vizeu Pinheiro .

The team, is composed of representatives of the GNR, PSP, PJ, SIS, and Directorate-General for Reinsertion and Prison Services, “focusing on the analysis of this type of occurrences in the metropolitan areas of Lisbon, Porto and Setúbal. A meeting took place in December and may in the future integrate other entities if this proves to be necessary.”

Report by Diário de Notícias.


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Volcano Eruption in Tonga was a Once-in-a Million Event


The underwater Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption has already triggered a tsunami, a sonic boom and thousands of lightning bolts, and could now lead to acid rain, according to New Scientist. It has been described as a “once-in-a-million” event in a New Scientist Report published yesterday (See below). But first the latest news.

Situation Report 18th January 2022  0820 hrs

The latest news is that Tonga’s small outer islands suffered extensive damage from the massive volcanic eruption and tsunami, with an entire village destroyed and many buildings missing, a Tongan diplomat said on Tuesday, raising fears of more deaths and injuries. A distress signal has been detected in an isolated, low-lying group of islands in the Tonga archipelago the United Nations said, prompting particular concern for its inhabitants.

Pictures of devastation have emerged as Australia and New Zealand sent military surveillance flights to assess damage to the Pacific island nation, efforts which had been delayed due to the towering ash cloud preventing earlier flights.

Tonga’s main island Tongatapu has reported “significant infrastructural damage”, according to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

But Mr Dujarric added: “There has been no contact from the Ha’apai group of islands, and we are particularly concerned about two small low-lying islands – Mango and Fonoi – following surveillance flights confirming substantial property damage.”

Photos taken taken by the New Zealand defence force during a reconnaissance flight on Monday and put together in a report for the Tongan government, show show some areas have had “catastrophic” devastation inflicted by the tsunami and volcanic eruption while others were relatively unscathed.

Many areas were assessed as having limited damage, such as ash on building roofs, pools of surface flooding or debris.

But others were judged to have sustained “catastrophic” damage, according to notes on the images. Atata island was noted to have “a large number of buildings missing. Remaining structures probably had flood damage. Multiple trees were uprooted, with debris throughout.”

Fonoifua Island was said to have sustained “extensive damage … with all but the largest buildings destroyed or severely damaged”.

Mango Island, a remote low-lying island home to 69 people, was assessed as having “catastrophic damage”. A distress sign was detected from Mango Island on Monday by the UN prompting concern for inhabitants.

“Catastrophic damage was observed with the entire village destroyed. Temporary tarpaulin shelters had been erected on the island’s higher areas. Debris was observed throughout the village,” said the annotated image.

The images also gave a sense of the damage to Tonga’s infrastructure sustained during the tsunami and volcani eruption. The defence force said there had been “limited” damage to the Fua’amotu International Airport’s south-eastern runway, but that it was currently “unserviceable” due to ash covering the runway.

However, the defence force noted that an operation to clear ash from the runway was under way, with vehicles and people visible from the air.

“Clearance operations by shovel and wheelbarrow were under way on the SE end of the runway. No heavy excavation machinery was observed,” a note on the image said. The defence force also noted that airport buildings appear intact, though there was a layer of ash on the surfaces.

The report noted that Nuku’alofa port in the capital had “limited to moderate damage” with some surface flooding and road access to the wharf obstructed by fallen containers, ash and other debris. The Faleniu gas station on Uiha Island was assessed as “serviceable”, as was the Pangai ferry terminal, the wharf at Ha’ano and the bridge between Koulo and Fangale’ounga.

New Scientist and Severe Weather Europe Reports

The massive explosion of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano in Tonga on Saturday was its most powerful eruption since AD 1100. The after-effects have been felt around the globe and the damage is still being assessed.

The volcano, located about 65 kilometres north of Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, exploded with violent force at 5:10pm local time on 15 January. Satellite images show a mushroom cloud of ash billowing 30 kilometres high and later sweeping more than 3000 kilometres west to Australia.

A sea level gauge at Nuku’alofa recorded a tsunami wave of 1.19 metres before it stopped recording, and videos posted to social media show waves crashing into houses. Large waves also reached Japan, prompting evacuation orders, and Peru, where two people drowned at a beach.

The extent of destruction in Tonga is still uncertain because the country’s main undersea phone and internet cable was damaged. New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern said in a press conference on 16 January that she had received reports of boats and large boulders washed ashore in Nuku’alofa and damage to properties, but that there was no news from other coastal areas. No confirmed deaths have been reported at this stage.

The pressure wave generated by the explosion blasted through the atmosphere at more than 1000 kilometres per hour and was recorded crossing the US, UK and Europe. The resulting sonic boom was heard in nearby Fiji, in New Zealand and even in Alaska, over 9000 kilometres away.

The eruption also sparked almost 400,000 lightning bolts above the volcano as bits of ash and atmospheric ice particles bumped into each other and generated electrical charges.

The ash plume reached up to around 30km (18.6mi) in altitude based on observed temperatures, which is well within the stratosphere. (See chart for comparison)

“Given the potential for further volcanic activity, there is also the potential for further tsunamis to be generated,” says Hannah Power at the University of Newcastle in Australia.

Atmospheric sensors have detected large amounts of sulphur dioxide gas released by the eruption, which could cause acid rain to fall in Tonga and Fiji and affect crops and drinking water, says Shane Cronin at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. However, the amount of sulphur dioxide isn’t enough to cause global cooling – an effect that was seen after the massive eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991, he says.

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai is 1.8 kilometres tall and 20 kilometres wide, but most of it is underwater, with only its top 100 metres poking out of the sea. It has been spewing ash intermittently and making small blast noises since 20 December.

New Scientist report

See also Severe Weather EU for more detailed report and analysis

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First day open to complaints collects 50 testimonies of child abuse in the church


The telephone line “was almost always full” and by the end of the afternoon “about 50 testimonies had already been validated”, said the coordinator of the Independent Commission for the Study of Child Abuse in the Catholic Church.

On the first day of open channels for complaints of sexual abuse in the Portuguese Catholic Church, today, the telephone line “was almost always filled” and by the end of the afternoon “about 50 testimonies” had already been validated. The coordinator of the Independent Commission for the Study of Sexual Abuse in the Portuguese Catholic Church, child psychiatrist Pedro Strecht, said, in a written response sent to Lusa, that “the telephone line was almost always filled” on the first day open to the collection of complaints and testimonies, through the various channels opened for this purpose.

“About 50 testimonies have already been validated through an online survey or completed in a phone call”, said Pedro Strecht, stressing, in a statement around 6:30 pm, that the telephone line only closes at 8:00 pm, suggesting that the number can be higher.

“The commission is pleased that its initial message was welcomed by people who were victims of this type of abuse”, said Pedro Strecht.

The commission that will investigate sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Portugal began today to receive complaints from victims, from cases that have occurred since 1950, which can be sent to the authorities and investigated if the crimes have not yet expired.

The commission receives testimonies from victims who want to do so, or from third parties who want to report cases they know, and the working group has mechanisms in place to screen for false testimonies that may arise, said Pedro Strecht.

Complaints and testimonies can reach the commission by completing an online survey on the website, which adopts the motto and objective of the commission at its address, but also through the telephone number +351917110000, available between 10am :00 and 20:00 daily, but which is not intended to be either an “SOS or psychological support line”, as Filipa Tavares, a social worker with experience in monitoring children and families, who is part of the commission, stressed.

Testimonies can also be sent by email –  – in writing, sent to a box that will be available on the commission’s website or in person, upon prior appointment of an interview.

The commission intends to collect testimonies and complaints from people who have suffered abuse in childhood and adolescence, up to the age of 18.

The work of this independent commission will take place throughout this year, until December 31, in a physical space that is “uncharacterized” and “autonomous” of the Church, with a report expected to be presented in December. The work will be financed by the Portuguese Episcopal Conference (CEP), but it will be open to possible contributions from other institutions, which will be disclosed “later” in this process, according to Pedro Strecht.

At the end of its work, the commission will prepare a report, to be delivered to the CEP, which will decide what actions to take.

In the presentation of the commission, in December, the president of the CEP, Bishop José Ornelas, claimed the importance of following “a path of truth, without prejudice or concealment” for the Portuguese Catholic Church, reinforcing the Church’s interest in finding out the truth. , but avoiding setting expectations about the findings and conclusions of the commission, to whom he assured that he will have the means to work.

At a press conference on Tuesday, which took place at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (Lisbon), the composition of the commission was publicly presented, which, in addition to the coordinator, includes the psychiatrist Daniel Sampaio, the former Minister of Justice Álvaro Laborinho Lúcio, the sociologist and researcher Ana Nunes de Almeida, social worker and family therapist Filipa Tavares and filmmaker Catarina Vasconcelos.


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Migration: almost 200,000 migrants arrived in the EU in 2021


Almost 200,000 illegal migrants arrived in the European Union (EU) in the last year, the highest number since 2017, the European border control agency Frontex announced today, adding that the illegal migration flow has returned to pre-pandemic levels.

The number of illegal arrivals was 57% higher than in 2020, when restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic drastically reduced migration, but also 36% more than in 2019, Frontex said in a statement.

The number of illegal arrivals to the EU in 2021, “just under 200,000”, is now higher “than pre-pandemic levels”, added the Warsaw-based agency.

“This suggests that factors other than the lifting of restrictions on global mobility are behind the increase in migratory pressure,” Frontex said.

In 2021, a new factor was the influx of migrants, mainly from the Middle East, through Belarus, in what the EU considers an operation orchestrated by the Minsk regime.

Frontex also observed a sharp increase in migrant arrivals through the central Mediterranean, the Western Balkans and Cyprus.

The main route for migrants was the central Mediterranean, where 65,362 illegal migrants arrived, about a third of the total. From one year to the next, the increase was 83% on that route, according to Frontex.

The Western Balkans saw an increase of 124% compared to 2020, reaching 60,540 illegal migrants. In Cyprus, 14,400 arrivals were registered, 123% more than in the previous year.

Last year, Syrians were the most numerous among illegal migrants, followed by Tunisians, Moroccans, Algerians and Afghans.

The Italian authorities today immobilized in the south of Sicily, in Italy, the humanitarian ship “Ocean Viking”, of the non-governmental organization (NGO) SOS Méditerranée, after verifying a series of anomalies on the deck that must be resolved before it can sail again. in the Mediterranean Sea.

SOS Méditerranée explained that the vessel underwent an 11-hour inspection on Monday and was then immobilized in the Sicilian port of Trapani, where it arrived on December 25 to disembark the last 114 migrants rescued from the sea.

Last year, the “Ocean Viking” rescued 2,832 people in 33 rescue operations, the NGO said in a statement.

The NGO recalled that the administrative blockade of the vessel arises after it was immobilized in July 2020 for months due to deficiencies different from the current ones.

This time, the problem has to do with a series of structures located on the aft deck that have been added to house migrants and store the equipment needed for rescue work.

“We regret the extreme rigor applied in the inspections of our ship. This inspection is the sixth that the “Ocean Viking” has undergone since the start of its operations in the central Mediterranean in August 2019”, said SOS Méditerranée.

According to the director-general of the NGO in Italy, Valéria Taurino, SOS Méditerranée has now been “forced” to postpone its operations.

The NGO explained that, during the inspection, it was found that “the structures added to the ship to house the survivors and with the necessary equipment for the rescue work should be registered in a different category”.

“Humanitarian ships like the “Ocean Viking”, which fill the void left by European states, are essential to prevent these shipwrecks,” said Fabienne Lassalle, deputy director general of SOS Méditerranée France, quoted in a statement.

More than 67,000 migrants landed in Italy in 2021, most from North Africa, in improvised or often overcrowded boats, according to data published on December 31 by the Italian Ministry of the Interior.

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Prime Minister’s Press Conference following Council of Minister’s Meeting Thursday 6th January 2022


Prime Minister António Costa announced this Thursday, January 6, the new anti-covid measures, which come into force on January 10:

SCHOOLS – Classes resume on January 10, as planned. Class isolation when there is a positive case will end. In the next two weeks a testing campaign will be carried out in schools, in parallel with the vaccination operation, which also includes reinforcing the vaccination of teachers.

ISOLATION – People who have already received the booster dose of the vaccine are exempt from the isolation period, which will be reserved for infected people and cohabitants.

EXEMPTION FROM TESTING – Those who have been vaccinated with a booster dose more than 14 days ago are exempt from having to present a negative test to access places or activities that require it. Testing is still compulsory for visits to nursing homes or to patients in health establishments, as well as for access to large events, events without assigned seats or in improvised enclosures and sports grounds (unless otherwise decided by the Directorate-General of Health).

WORK – Compulsory telework is extended until January 14. After this date, it will be “merely recommended”, as at other times during the pandemic.

SHOPPING ESTABLISHMENTS – Bans on sales and promotions end, but restrictions on capacity remain: only one person per five square metres.

BARS AND NIGHTCLUBS – Reopen on January 14. Entry to these spaces will only be possible with a negative test. The ban on drinking alcoholic beverages on the public road remains in force.

BORDERS – The mandatory negative test is maintained for all flights arriving in Portugal and sanctions are maintained for airlines that do not guarantee compliance with these rules.

DIGITAL CERTIFICATE – Still compulsory for access to restaurants, tourist establishments and local accommodation, cultural shows, events with assigned seating and gyms. The digital certificate will again give access to cinemas.

António Costa also highlighted the fact that more than three million Portuguese people have already taken the third dose of the vaccine, indicating that there is capacity to give up to 94 thousand doses per day.

The Prime Minister also said that 89% of the population has completed the primary vaccination course and for the over 65 age groups and that there is “83% booster dose coverage.” The average daily administration of vaccines is “84 thousand doses” per day, he added.

António Costa also referred to the “very significant increase in testing” verified since the beginning of December, the month in which “five million tests” were carried out, with a record of more than 402 thousand tests on the 30th of December.


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Meeting at Infarmed Wednesday 5th January 2022


Present at the  meeting at Infarmed’s headquarters, in Lisbon, are only the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the President of the Assembly of the Republic, Ferro Rodrigues, and the Prime Minister, António Costa, in addition to the Minister of Health, Marta Temido, will be present. , and from the experts.

The rest – party representatives, members of the Council of State or social partners – will participate in the session by videoconference.

The epidemiological situation in Portugal will be presented by Pedro Pinto Leite, from the General Directorate of Health,

João Paulo Gomes, from the National Institute of Health Doctor Ricardo Jorge (INSA), will speak about the evolution of the prevalence and transmissibility of the Omicron variant of the SARS coronavirus -CoV-2.

Ana Paula Rodrigues, also from INSA, will present data on the severity of the infection and the effectiveness of the vaccines,

Baltazar Nunes, from the same institute, who will explain the impact of Ómicron on the Portuguese population.

The certainties and uncertainties of the pandemic will be addressed by Henrique Barros, from the Institute of Public Health of the University of Porto.

Andreia Leite, from the National School of Public Health, will present behaviours and social perceptions during the festive period .

The recommendations for the management of the pandemic will be made by Raquel Duarte, from the Institute of Public Health of the University of Porto, which will be followed by:

A review of the status of vaccination against covid-19 by Colonel Carlos Penha-Gonçalves.

Meeting started at 10.00 hrs

The Minister of Health opens the session. The first speaker is Pedro Pinto Leite, from DGS, who will speak about the epidemiological situation in the country.

Pedro Pinto Leite, from DGS, says that Portugal is “in a different phase” of the pandemic, with “historic” values ​​in terms of cases. The current incidence is 2007 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, 131% more compared to the previous week. In the last week, there were an average of 21 thousand cases per day.

There is an increase in incidence in all age groups, but especially among the youngest. In the last week, there were about 1.7 million tests. These had 10.4% positivity, higher than the 4% reference value stipulated by ECDC.

Pedro Pinto Leite confirmed that, apparently, the omicron variant has “lower gravity”. Even so, he stated that the number of admissions requires “some caution”: there are 1167 inpatients (28% more than in the previous period), although the ICUs are at 147 (2% less). Those admitted to the ICU are 58% off the stipulated red line (255 beds).

The risk of hospitalization is two to six times lower in people with complete vaccination over 50 years of age.

Portugal has 19 deaths per million inhabitants, an average calculated over 14 days. The figure is “far below” what has been seen at other times in the pandemic. Pedro Pinto Leite considers it “stable” and even with a “decreasing” trend. “We find ourselves with a moderate mortality”.

The risk of death is three to five times lower in people with full vaccination over 60 years of age. In the age group aged 80 and over, in every 100 cases, 26.8 died; but with vaccination, the value was reduced to 8.6 and, with the booster dose, it dropped to 5.

10.24 Hrs

João Paulo Gomes, from the Ricardo Jorge Institute, responsible for the presentation on the genetic diversity of the virus, the evolution of prevalence in Portugal and the new omicron variant, notes that about 80% of the virus genomes sequenced in Portugal are related to the omicron variant identified, according to the World Health Organization, in more than 90 countries around the world.

According to the official, to date 25,000 Sars-CoV-2 viruses have been sequenced in Portugal, but, taking into account the characteristics of the micron, sequencing (which implies a delay of one week) is not the best model to follow. Priority is real-time monitoring of the failure of the “S” gene (the spike protein).

According to the official, to date 25,000 Sars-CoV-2 viruses have been sequenced in Portugal, but, taking into account the characteristics of the omicron variant, sequencing “is not the ideal strategy”, because it has a delay of about one week.

Therefore, a strategy similar to the one used with the alpha variant has been used, monitoring, in real time, the failure of the “S” gene (Spike protein) – which “constitutes enormous predictive value”, which allows for “a daily surveillance”.

The omicron variant, with “far more mutations than the delta variant”, justifies, at least in part, its greater transmissibility.

The number of omicron mutations (much higher than the others), the higher rate of replication in the upper airways and the greater ability to “escape” from our humanitarian system are the three factors that explain its greater transmissibility .

On the other hand, it has a lower capacity than other variants to multiply in the lungs, which justifies its lower severity .

10.35 hrs

Ana Paula Rodrigues, from INSA, cited a study that reveals that, in South Africa, the risk of hospitalization of those infected with the omicron variant is about one fifth of that of the delta variant. In Scotland, this risk is a third of what it was before, and in the US, the probability of hospitalization for those who have contracted the new variant has also dropped to “less than half”.

This reduction in the risk of hospitalization results from the “conjunction of two factors”: the “potential less seriousness of the infection” and immunity (whether by vaccination or by infection).

Vaccination effectiveness against omicron is “lower” than against delta. The vaccine booster against the new variant has “moderate to high” efficacy.

The effectiveness of the vaccine against hospitalization after the booster dose in relation to those infected with omicron “reaches high values, in the order of 88%”.

In October, 86.4% of the Portuguese population had antibodies against covid-19. The values ​​were even higher (93%) in the population over 70 years old.

Vaccination effectiveness against omicron is “lower” than against delta. The vaccine booster against the new variant has “moderate to high” efficacy.

The effectiveness of the vaccine against hospitalization after the booster dose in relation to those infected with omicron “reaches high values, in the order of 88%”. If the patient has only two doses, these values ​​fall to a range between 52% and 72%, depending on how long it has been since the inoculation took place.

In October, 86.4% of the Portuguese population had antibodies against covid-19. The values ​​were even higher (93%) in the population over 70 years old.

The specialist expects “a lower relative weight” of the most serious infections, but warns that this will not make the infection become “mild”. Thus, individual protection measures continue to be justified.

10.50 hrs

Baltazar Nunes, from the Ricardo Jorge Institute, says that “there is greater transmission of the virus across Europe” compared to November, due to the emergence of the omicron variant. Looking at the examples of England and Denmark, especially in the first one, a more accentuated increase in incidence can be observed as the variant started to gain ground. In both countries, the incidence “has surpassed historical highs”.

In Portugal, this growth is greater when compared to these two countries, which can be explained by greater testing and family reunion at the time of the holidays.

With regard to hospitalizations, there was a growth rate of 2% per day in Denmark and 4.8% in the United Kingdom – which, in the latter case, corresponds to an increase from 200 to 600 beds per 1 million inhabitants (more similar to the situation in Portugal). The specialist points out, however, that, although admissions to wards show a growing trend , the same is not true in intensive care units .

According to Baltazar Nunes, with the emergence of this variant (which began on December 14), 20% of previously infected unvaccinated people lost protection against a new infection.

What is expected for Portugal: a very high number of new infections at the beginning of January (between 42 thousand and 130 thousand); a subsequent increase in the number of people in isolation (from 4% to 12%), with absenteeism from work and school; and maximum ward beds occupied between 1300 and 3700 in late January and maximum ICU beds between 184 and 453 in early February, with a “very high” impact on first-line health services (i.e. pressure about the NHS24, pharmacies and hospital emergencies.

11.10 hrs

Henrique de Barros, from the Institute of Public Health of the University of Porto, spoke of the “huge” increase in the infection in practically all age groups, with the exception of the older age groups. But if the distance between the number of current cases and one year ago is “brutal” with prejudice to the current year, the difference for the better with regard to hospitalizations and deaths is also “brutal”.

The level of infections is explained, in part, by the lifting of movement restrictions. Mobility is currently at levels similar to or even higher than pre-pandemic. The number of tests – five times higher than a year ago – also explains this increase.

“Vaccination works and it worked”, says Henrique de Barros. In homes, the number of outbreaks “decreased six times” compared to January 2021; with ten times more infected, there are now “ten times fewer hospitalized.

“There is no reason for us to continue to reason in terms of the number of cases”, defends Henrique de Barros, since there is “a clear dissociation between the number of cases and their gravity”. The next variant will probably be even less severe from the point of view of the disease it causes, it will tend to spread more easily,” he predicted.

The specialist also considered “unequivocal” that the vaccine “changed our lives”. Today, thanks also to advances in the study of the virus and the development of drugs, “it is possible to control the infection”.

However, there are still some “uncertainties”: from the outset, the fact that omicron is too recent does not allow, for the time being, to assess the risk in non-vaccinated individuals. Likewise, imagining that we can let the infection spread without consequences “may be a mistake and a decision that we will pay heavily.

The isolation and quarantine strategy will also have to become “maie efficient”, he recommended, particularly on the issue of schools. The objective will be to minimize the social impacts of this measure.

“With vaccination and a testing strategy, we can live very close to normal,” concluded the expert.

11.30 hrs

Andreia Leite, from the National School of Public Health (ENSP), shares the results of the analysis conducted on behaviour during the festive period. The data below was collected based on an online questionnaire that has been carried out continuously by the ENSP to “monitor the social perceptions of the Portuguese during covid-19”. During the holidays, the sample consisted of 850 responses.

There was a large increase in demand and in the number of diagnostic tests performed: the frequency of people reporting that they had never performed tests decreased in the last fortnight, dropping to less than 30% in the last week of December. People’s motivations for testing themselves were mainly “the protection of family and friends”.

According to the official, the perception of the risk of the Portuguese varied throughout the pandemic, and in the last half of December, 67% of respondents said they had a perception of “moderate or high” risk.

1140 hrs

Raquel Duarte, from the Institute of Public Health at the University of Porto, recommends encouraging “the autonomy of the population”. The specialist defends that self-tests become “accessible and free”.

Although the hospital impact of the new variant is “reduced”, it is necessary to remain “aware” of the overload of health services.

1150 hrs

Colonel Carlos Penha Gonçalves, responsible for the coordination nucleus of the vaccination plan against covid-19, presents the current situation.

Full vaccination against covid-19 already covers 88% of the population , with children and young people between the ages of 5 and 20 who have less protection, as the process is still ongoing. For children aged 5-11, vaccination starts on Thursday.

Regarding booster vaccination, it is already being extended to those over 50 years of age, as well as those over 18 who have been vaccinated with Janssen.

Simultaneous vaccination

With regard to the simultaneous vaccination campaign against flu and covid-19, 2400 people have already been vaccinated against the flu and about three thousand against covid-19. About 81% of people over 80 years of age are vaccinated and those over 60 are already being vaccinated. “Over 65 years old we have three quarters of the population vaccinated and over 60 years old we have two thirds”, he summarized.