Epidemiologist: “It is not inevitable that vacations bring an increase in cases” of Covid-19

The president of the National Health Council, Henrique Barros, says that more trips during the vacation period increase the risk of transmission of Covid-19, but it is not necessary for that to happen. For that he speaks of a triangle of forces that will help to contain possible outbreaks.

Henrique Barros, says that vacations do not have to be a period of increase in cases of Covid-19 in Portugal. It recognizes that there is a risk of this happening, but there are ways to avoid it if the necessary precautions are taken.

Henrique Barros, who is also responsible for the Public Health Institute of the University of Porto, begins by recognizing that if there is a movement of people “there are likely to be more cases”. But immediately afterwards he emphasizes that this is not a story that necessarily has to have this ending. “It is not inevitable that vacations bring an increase in cases,” he says in an interview with Renascenca news.

The protective shield for the hypothetical growth of cases at the time of July and August, in which the Portuguese traditionally take their holidays, is for this epidemiologist composed of a triangle: people are at one of the corners and “each one of us taking on the duty to protect yourself and others “, at the other end is” the set of rules and some behavioural surveillance “, and at the third” we must have a public health capable of intervening on each identified case “.

“There has to be a prompt response to identify these cases. There must be a concern that people understand that there is a set of protective measures for themselves and others. If these measures are respected, the increase in cases is very small”, underlines Henrique Barros.

The expert gives an image that can help you understand what you mean by the question of risk and inevitability. “On a hot day there is a greater risk of fire, but it does not necessarily have to happen. Covid and the holidays are the same,” he explains.

There is almost no “community transmission”

Despite the sustained increase in cases, especially in the region of Lisbon and the Tagus Valley, since the beginning of the lack of definition in the beginning of May, the president of the National Health Council believes that Portugal “has been doing a job of increasing verification of chains of transmission”, in such a way that “the number of cases for which it is impossible to find an epidemiological link is very small”.

“I dared to say that transmission in the community practically does not exist”, he concludes.

He argues that, at this moment, new cases are being identified “as aggregate cases”, that is, “case boxes”. But these, he assures, “have been able to be circumscribed”. However, to say that an outbreak has ended and a chain has stopped, this “requires waiting 28 days, at least 14 days for the last case”.

This would be the time from now, with no other factors such as the arrival of people from abroad, it would lead the country to considerably reduce the number of cases.

Henrique Barros also defends that Portugal has been able to stop the growth of the disease, because there are “very few cases that we have not been able to identify the origin”.

The same expert defends this thesis with a number. “If there were transmission in the community, the increase would be much faster. In Portugal, if today we have 100 cases at the speed at which we are transmitting, it would take 80 days before they become 200 cases. This is what we call case doubling time. When the infection is active, this duplication takes place in half a dozen days ”, he concludes.


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