Dr. Ricardo Jorge (INSA) of the National Institute of Health announced, today, enhanced surveillance of variants of the virus that causes covid-19 circulating in Portugal, through its continuous monitoring.
The institute added in a statement: “INSA, through its bioinformatics core in its Department of Infectious Diseases, has strengthened its strategy to monitor and control the genetic diversity of the novel coronavirus in Portugal, adopting continuous monitoring of variants prevalent in the country.”
According to the same source, this new strategy allows for “better genetic characterization of SARS-CoV-2”, as the data will be analyzed continuously, and there will be no time slots between analyzes, which was primarily intended for specific studies of genetic characterization required by public health.
“The benefits of this new approach range from the timely identification of genetic variants emerging in the country, to continuous monitoring of the prevalence of different circulating variants, allowing for stronger and timely support for public health decision-making,” the INSA also noted.
The new strategy now approved consists of sequencing more than 500 SARS-CoV-2-positive samples per week, a number that the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) considers ideal for a robust genetic surveillance system.
Monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 genetic diversity in Portugal is coordinated by INSA, through sequencing analysis of covid-19 positive samples collected in laboratories, hospitals and institutions across the country.
The studied positive samples come from both suspected cases of variants of concern or interest, as well as random samples obtained as part of the monthly surveillance with national sampling.
The four variants classified by the World Health Organization as of concern – alpha, beta, gamma and delta – are present in Portugal and present community transmission, that is, when cases where the origin of the infection cannot be traced back to verification.
According to preliminary data for June from INSA, the prevalence of the delta variant, which is associated with India, is more than 60% in the Lisbon and Valle do Tejo region, but is still less than 15% in the north.
INSA estimates that the delta variant has a degree of transmissibility about 60% higher than the alpha variant, associated with the United Kingdom and which was prevalent in Portugal during May.
In Portugal, 17,079 people died and 869,879 cases were confirmed, according to the latest bulletin of the Directorate General of Health.