In a statement, the WHO warns that the JN.1 variant of the Sars-Cov-2 virus could increase the burden of respiratory infections in several countries in the northern hemisphere.

In a report by CNN Portugal, Gustavo Tato Borges, a specialist in Public Health, states that the WHO alert is "a normal process that has already happened several times during the pandemic", that is, every time a new variant appears, a new alert appears. "Whenever there is a variant that is more adapted and, therefore, that transmits better between human beings, it ends up being a variable of interest, a variant to monitor more closely to understand if it will become a serious problem or not."


The specialist reassures the population, remembering that "our reality now is very different from that of a few years ago, when we didn't have any vaccine". "As long as the vaccines are effective", the new variants that emerge "do not, in principle, have a considerable weight to occupy places in hospital care or intensive care. Therefore, they should not cause problems", says Gustavo Tato Borges.

"What the WHO is warning us, once again, is that Covid has not disappeared and that the lessons we learned during the pandemic are to be maintained. Careful hand hygiene, wearing a mask when we are sick , the fact that we avoid close contact so as not to transmit the disease to other people when we have symptoms. All these precautions are to be maintained and, obviously, those who are able, or those who are recommended to be vaccinated, should reinforce their immunity with another dose of vaccine during this winter, in order to minimise the occurrence of serious illness."

Covid-19 has not disappeared and, according to the bulletin from the Directorate-General for Health, on December 17th nine deaths related to the disease were recorded - the highest figure since October 16th. However, Gustavo Tato Borges points out that there is currently a "difficulty" in monitoring the evolution of the disease "so closely" in Portugal because "there are no longer so many tests" and there are even "cases in which there are no tests being carried out to covid-19".

"We only see the tip of the iceberg, which are the patients who go to the hospital and who end up needing to be hospitalised in any of the areas (normal or intensive care). And we only know the tip of all cases. Fortunately, what has been disclosed by the National Institute of Health, by the Directorate-General for Health, is that we do not have a considerable weight of the number of people who are infected with covid-19 and who need to be hospitalised or in intensive care."

Still, the expert emphasizes that risk groups should continue to be vaccinated to "be more protected", both against the flu and covid-19, thus agreeing with the WHO recommendation that current vaccines are effective towards the new variant, as it has similarities with Ómicron.