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Information on COVID-19 | March 2020

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In March 2020, NOVA provided general information on Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) on this page. For updates please check the page indicated above.

Questions and Answers - March 2020

What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a type of virus known for causing disease in humans and are common across the world. COVID-19 is a disease causes by a new strain of coronavirus first identified in Wuhan City (China) in December 2019.
The incubation period of COVID-19 is between 2 and 14 days. This means that if a person remains well 14 days after contact with someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19, it is unlikely that they have been infected.
The following symptoms may develop in the 14 days after exposure to someone who has COVID-19 infection:

  • Cough
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Fever

Generally, these infections can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune system, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.

How is COVID-19 spread?

From what we know about other coronaviruses, spread of COVID-19 is most likely to happen when there is close contact (within 2 metres) with an infected person. It is likely that the risk increases the longer someone has close contact with an infected person.
Droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes (termed respiratory secretions) containing the virus are most likely to be the most important means of transmission.
There are two routes by which people could become infected:

  • Secretions can be directly transferred into the mouths or noses of people who are nearby (within 2 metres) or could be inhaled into the lungs;
  • It is also possible that someone may become infected by touching a surface or object that has been contaminated with respiratory secretions and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes (such as touching a door knob or shaking hands then touching own face).

How can I prevent the spread of infection?

here is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus.

There are general principles anyone can follow to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Washing your hands often – with soap and water, or use alcohol sanitiser if handwashing facilities are not available. Use soap and water if hands are visibly soiled.
  • Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in a bin. Wash your hands after sneezing or coughing. If a disposable tissue is not available, cough or sneeze to your elbow. Never sneeze or cough to your hands or to open air.
  • People who have symptoms (cough, fever, difficulty in breathing) should stay at home and should not attend work or any education, childcare or health care setting.
  • Students, staff and visitors should wash their hands:
    • Before leaving home
    • On arrival at Faculty/Institute/School  
    • After using the toilet
    • After  breaks and sporting activities
    • Before eating any food, including snacks
    • Before leaving Faculty/Institute/School 
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who have the following symptoms: cough, fever, difficulty in breathing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • If you are worried about your symptoms of you have any questions, please call SNS24: 808 24 24 24. Do not go directly to a doctor or other healthcare setting.
  • Check regularly www.dgs.pt for updated information.

Face masks for the general public, students or staff are not recommended to protect from infection, as there is no evidence of benefit from their use outside healthcare environments.


I recently travelled abroad. What should I do?

NOVA takes into consideration the guidelines of the Portuguese Directorate-General for Health (Direção-Geral de Saúde - SNS) and the World Health Organization on COVID-19. According to the University's Contingency Plan, all students and staff returning from an area with active community transmission of the new coronavirus, including:

  • Germany (States of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia)
  • Spain (Autonomous Communities of: Catalonia, La Rioja, Madrid and Basque Country)
  • France (Regions of Grand Est and Île-de-France)
  • Italy
  • China
  • South Korea
  • Iran
  • Japan
  • Singapore

must respect, as a precautionary principle of Public Health, a home prophylactic isolation period of 14 days after their return, during which they will monitor the emergence of any symptoms.

All people in these circumstances, during that period, have to:

  • Be aware of symptom onset: fever, cough, difficulty in breathing, in them or their cohabitants;
  • Measure their body temperature twice a day and take note;
  • Wash their hands often, especially before eating and after using the toilet;
  • If they or their cohabitants experience any of the symptoms above, call SNS24 (808 24 24 24).

What to do if students or staff become unwell and believe they have been exposed to COVID-19 (either through travel to a specified country/area or contact with a confirmed case)?

All students and staff who experience cough, fever or difficulty in breathing should be instructed to report their health status to the designated focal point in their institution.

If a potentially suspect case of COVID-19 is identified among students or staff, he/she should not go directly to a health care setting. Instead, the following actions should be taken:

  • Remain in the designated isolation room in order to avoid infecting other students or staff.
  • Call SNS24: 808 24 24 24 and describe symptoms and recent travel history. Follow all guidance.  
  • When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, then throw it in a bin.
  • Avoid touching people, surfaces or objects.
  • The designated isolation room should be ventilated, and must be cleaned and disinfected once the suspected case leaves it.
  • A separated toilet should be used by the suspected case, if needed.
  • No restrictions or special control measures are required while laboratory test results for COVID-19 are awaited.
  • There is no need to close the institution or send students/staff home, while laboratory test results for COVID-19 are awaited.

Should students living at NOVA residences stay there?

Only those students who can do so in the best conditions of safety and public health should leave the Residences of NOVA, namely with regard to the situation in which their return destination is.

We remind that the containment of this pandemic is in the hands of all of us, so it is up to each of us to take a responsible attitude, in accordance with the guidelines defined by the health authorities.

Useful Links

Websites of NOVA schools: