The director of the National School of Public Health (ENSP), Carla Nunes, warns that the number of covid-19 cases will rise again in the coming weeks, with the return of children and young people to school.
In an interview with Lusa, the epidemiologist and mathematician assumes that the group of children under 12 "is a risk", since they were not included in the covid vaccination plan, and the vaccines authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) are not still available for this age group, but expresses the expectation that this does not translate into situations of serious illness.
“We know that mostly they don't have serious symptoms, they can transmit. What happens is that whoever they can transmit [the virus] to is already more protected by vaccines. It's obviously going to increase the number of cases, because we're also always going to test and trace in schools and that has to keep moving forward, but I don't think it's going to have consequences in terms of serious cases that become more important than the importance of the children go back to school”, she explains.
In relation to measures to combat the pandemic for schools in the next school year, according to the General Directorate of Health (DGS) statement released on Tuesday - which provides more flexible guidelines for the prophylactic isolation of low-risk contacts, in addition to maintenance of the use of mask and initial screening -, Carla Nunes believes that the situation continues to require care and close monitoring.
“We're going to have to continue to control the process and identify who the high-risk and low-risk [contacts] are. Now, what is done regarding the measures, obviously has to be made more flexible", she said, pointing out a current phase of "post-vaccination" and that the "chaos" generated in the last school year with the frequent suspensions from on-site teaching are no longer justified in view of the consequences in terms of the disease.
After some uncertainty in the vaccination process for young people between 12 and 15 years old, initially only for young people at high risk and shortly afterwards open to all age groups without restrictions, Ms Nunes commented on a possible next step that is already being the subject of clinical trials: the vaccination of children under 12 years of age. “It is premature to say, but there has to be strong evidence of benefit from vaccination in this age group. We need such global immunity, to vaccinate the whole world and children are a part; now, if this is going to be the short-term objective of these countries, and in particular of Portugal, I think it is premature to carry out this analysis. Effectively, they do not have a very serious situation and it is a situation that needs to be analyzed very calmly”, she said.
Carla Nunes reiterates that such a scenario “is not an urgency” in Portugal, preferring to point out the “great current challenge” of the resumption of normality in society with “new adapted measures” and “very large surveillance and monitoring”.