It was in an atypical silence, which made the cold environment all over the country seem even more cold, that the last chimes of 2020 sounded, marking the beginning of a new year. 2021 arrived with the hopeful promise to give back to the world the confidence that we all yearned for.
And with uncertain hope, came the call for caution and resilience, because the fight against Covid-19 continues, reminding everyone that we are protagonists of a chapter of History that is written every day and whose outcome is still uncertain.
We visited the past with the confirmation of a new general lockdown in which, with the imminent break down of the National Health Service, and in the face of an escalation of cases to historic maximums, the contingency plans of Portuguese hospitals rose to the highest level and suspended all non-urgent activity. Schools closed and the country stopped again.
January arrived with vaccination at the top of the news agenda worldwide, with attention also being paid to the new variant of the virus detected in the United Kingdom and which quickly spread to various parts of the world, including Portugal. More contagious, the new variant came, on the one hand, to fuel speculation and insecurity, and, on the other, to challenge the scientific community around the world to persevere in the clear and incisive response that has proven to be fundamental in combating the new coronavirus.
At the beginning of a new year, the pandemic divided media attention with an event marked by violence and chaos, on the day when the US Congress was preparing to confirm Joe Biden's electoral victory. The news of the invasion of the Capitol by supporters of the outgoing President, who was facing his second impeachment process, leaves a shameful mark in the history of democracy in the United States of America.
The approval of Moderna's vaccine by the European Medicines Agency at the start of 2021 represented good and promising news.
The sentencing to 4 years in prison of the Chinese journalist who denounced the Wuhan outbreak was also highlighted in the press in this first month of the year, as well as the UN appeal for her release.
Around here, and with a grateful recognition of the freedom that governs our thoughts and actions, the spotlight was pointed to the debates of the candidates in the race to Belém and to the elections.
The beginning of the new year was also marked by the passing away of one of the most important singers of Portuguese fado. Thousands of people shared their sorry on the day that became National Mourning Day for the death of Carlos do Carmo. “Lisboa menina e moça” became the official song of the city of Lisbon, eternalizing the memory of a notable artist who indelibly marked Portuguese culture and nation.
National sculpture also lamented the loss of the master and maker of works of art, João Cutileiro, a distinguished Portuguese sculptor who leaves us a very valuable legacy.
In January, the country was on alert with the escalation of contagions and victims, watching successive outbreaks of covid-19 in Portuguese homes and infected a high number of elderly people. As it is one of the most vulnerable population groups and the one that is of greater concern in the current pandemic context, vaccination against Covid-19 continued at the homes for the elderly, after a considerable group of health professionals, from north to south of the country, were vaccinated.
And given the 365 new opportunities that 2021 brought to everyone, we tried to keep a firm commitment, making efforts due to a strong Academy and a society more aware of the reality of the facts.
We now, understand the specificities and differences between the various vaccines for Covid-19, as explained by Professor Cristina Sampaio.
We reiterated the efficacy and safety of the vaccine against Covid-19, calling for “collective solidarity”, in an analysis by Professor Joaquim Ferreira of the country's epidemiological situation. As we want the decision about vaccination against Covid-19 to be responsible and informed, we have assembled a panel of excellence to answer the main questions about the vaccine, in a videoconference open to the whole society, which marked the return of one of the most didactic and interesting initiatives of our Faculty: The FMUL Talks.
We understood the common denominator of Art and Science, from the perspective of Professor Carmo Fonseca, in an interesting reflection on the impact of the pandemic on Science; and we revisited the History of Diabetes with an travelling exhibition, which marks the centenary of the discovery of insulin and had our Faculty as its starting point.
We warned about the pressure on hospitals across the country and commented on the worsening numbers of the pandemic after the easing of restrictions during the Christmas season.
We dissected the impact of Covid-19 on FMUL by means of a report that analyses the consequences of the pandemic on the organizational, operational and activity aspects of our institution.
We understand, in detail, what unites and separates the two vaccines that make up the National Vaccination Plan for Covid-19, as explained by Professor Miguel Prudêncio regarding the specificities and common points of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
And given that cardiovascular patients are part of the group of people who are most likely to get a disease resulting from infection by SARS CoV-2, we looked at the effects of the pandemic on Cardiology, with an analysis of the situation by Professor Fausto J. Pinto.
We shared the happy ending of the unprecedented delivery of a pregnant woman in a coma due to Covid-19, an operation conducted by Professor Diogo Ayres de Campos.
And with our eyes set on the dreaded catastrophe of the collapse of hospitals, we were invaded by awe with a strange lockdown, in which the satisfaction of the will of each individual seemed to override the collective conscience of union in one of the most critical moments of the pandemic. As such, and for those who have not yet realized what we are talking about when it comes to pandemic and lockdown, we echoed the call of the intensive care physician Gustavo Carona, who spoke to us about the courage and anguish of the naked truth.
We also advocated on-site medical education and Covid-19 vaccine administration to medical students attending the clinical cycle, and we launched a new edition of FMUL in Numbers, dedicated to the 20 years of the year 6 clinical internship of our Integrated Master Degree in Medicine.
And at a time when Covid-19 meets the flu, we warn of the worsening of the risk due to the strains of the flu virus that are proving to be more violent this year, in an alert given by Professor Francisco Antunes.
In January, we followed the worrying evolution of the country's epidemiological situation with the comment of Professor Miguel Prudêncio, reiterating that “awareness is in the hands of everyone”.
And in the context of extraordinary measures of the most recent state of emergency, we adapted the functioning of teaching and non-teaching activities, defending the continuity of face-to-face activities in clinical years as “a formative, humanistic and solidary act that will contribute to the health of the country”.
We also affirmed our trust in Professor Joaquim Ferreira as President of the Pedagogical Council, with the unanimous expression of support by all the directors and coordinators of the Integrated Master Degree in Medicine and the Degree in Nutrition Sciences.
Since heart health is of utmost importance to us, we have teamed up with the best digital solutions to consolidate our vision of medical education, offering the new Masterclass online courses with a state-of-the-art interactive digital simulator, in order to stimulate critical thinking and the development of skills at the highest level.
And whereas “Saudade” was the chosen word of the year that just ended, the challenge is to highlight the word that will make 2021 a year of progress and success (in particular, the most desired by all, which is the victory over the pandemic). That word is "Movement". Even if the rule is to stay at home.
Regardless of the people, situations or circumstances around us, the only certainty that we will ever have is that change is constant and evolution is the goal. And to evolve, it is necessary to move, to continue. It is necessary to act, despite the forces that sometimes try to prevent us from moving forward.