Covid-19: a pandemic

The new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China.

Although its origin is still under investigation and has never been identified in humans before, we know that the virus is transmitted between people through droplets, secretions, and infected aerosols. Covid-19 passes from one person to another when someone who is infected with the virus, coughs or sneezes and the droplets released hit directly into the mouth, nose, and eyes of whoever is close.

Droplets can also fall on objects or surfaces surrounding the infected person. Other people can then become infected by touching these objects or surfaces and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth with their hands.

All these lead to a very high probability of contagion.

That is why the World Health Organization (WHO) now considers it to be a pandemic, in other words, a new disease spread worldwide. The term is used when an epidemic – a major outbreak affecting one region – spreads across different continents with sustained transmission from person to person. The number of countries with declared cases of Covid-19 has been increasing and can be followed on several websites, such as Johns Hopkins University.


What are Covid-19 main symptoms?

The period between exposure and the onset of symptoms is estimated to be between 2 and 14 days. In most cases, patients with Covid-19 have mild to moderate respiratory symptoms, similar to seasonal flu, such as coughing, fever or difficulty breathing. Only the most severe cases can lead to pneumonia with acute respiratory failure, kidney, and another organ failure. But there is also some good news: the vast majority of cases recover without consequences.

And each one of us can do a lot to prevent the spread of the virus.

Tips to fight the spread of the virus

You have probably read it more than once, but you can never repeat this information too often:

  1. The air belongs to everyone

    When you sneeze or cough, cover your nose and mouth with your arm or a tissue, which should be thrown away immediately. Protect yourself, your own, and those around you.

  2. Wash your hands

    Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based solution to disinfect them. In addition to the palms of your hands, be sure to rub your fingers and wrists well. Rinse with water and dry your hands with a disposable wipe.

  3. If you have symptoms, do not hesitate

    If you have returned from an affected area, avoid close contact with other people. Take shelter on a voluntary basis. If you come from an area with an active chain of transmission and have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing within 14 days, you should contact the national services. In Portugal, please refer to the SNS24 helpline, by telephone on 808 24 24 24 or by e-mail to And one more thing: if it’s busy, please don’t dial 112 (the Portuguese equivalent to 911).

  4. Protect groups at risk

    Regardless of age, anyone can be infected with the new coronavirus. However, there are more vulnerable groups where the disease can manifest itself in a serious way, such as the elderly, people with chronic diseases, or health professionals. Therefore, strengthen your hygiene and keep social distancing measures for groups at risk.

  5. Do not run frantically to supermarkets

    With schools closed and children at home, it may be necessary to reinforce your home pantry and refrigerator. However, don’t forget that a rush to the supermarket is counterproductive. The demand for food should be moderate to ensure that nothing is lacking for anyone. By keeping it to yourself in excess, you are taking it from others. And you don’t have to buy too much. The supermarket chains guarantee the supply.

Keeping social distance when grocery shopping

To guarantee access to food for everyone, Pingo Doce – the leading supermarket chain in Portugal – has changed the opening hours of its more than 430 stores spread throughout the country, always having professionals on hand to guarantee the operational functioning of the stores and distribution centres, 7 days a week.

Be a public health agent and share this information and good practices about Covid-19 on social networks.

This article is based on materials made available online by the Portuguese Government.