Portugal likely not prepared for coronavirus outbreak – health experts

  • Lusa
  • 6 February 2020

Portuguese experts have warned that the country may not be prepared to face the new coronavirus.

Portuguese experts have warned, in an article published in Acta Médica, that Portugal may not be prepared to face the new coronavirus and that it has not learned from past outbreaks of avian flu and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).

In an article published on Thursday in the scientific journal of Portugal’s Order of Physicians, the experts write: “It is possible that we are not yet prepared to respond to a suspected case of coronavirus (2019-nCov). The lack of preparation we witnessed with the first suspected case (which fortunately was not confirmed) should be used to help health services correct their mistakes and be better prepared.

“These lessons should have been learned a long time ago, after the emergence of H5N1 avian influenza, SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome], the pandemic H1N1 and Mers-Cov [Middle East respiratory syndrome],” write pulmonologist Raquel Duarte of Porto’s Faculty of Medicine, Isabel Furtado of the infectious diseases department of the same city’s main university hospital, Luís Sousa of the public health department of the North regional health authority, and Carlos Carvalho, also of that authority and of the Abel Salazar Institute of Biomedical Science.

“Rather than being concerned about a number … we should ensure that the country is prepared to contain the disease quickly after the emergence of a suspected case or in a contagion of a healthy person,” the experts argue.

On quarantine, they take the view that “the freedom of each person should be considered, but … the defence of public health should always be the priority.”

They recall that this new epidemic is a test of the country’s ability to face a threat that is set to be repeated over time: “Each time, we must learn from mistakes to be even better prepared.”

The remarks come in an article in English titled ‘The New Coronavirus 2019: New virus, old challenges’.

The new coronavirus, which emerged in December in Wuhan, in central China, has claimed at least 563 lives and infected more than 28,000 people.

In addition to mainland China and Macau and Hong Kong, there are confirmed cases of infection in more than 20 countries.

The World Health Organization on 30 January declared an international public health emergency, which calls for the adoption of global prevention and coordination measures.