Portugal eyes new coronavirus restrictions, as infections soar

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Nov 18 2021 06:11 AM | Updated as of Nov 18 2021 07:19 AM

Portugal on Wednesday said it was considering imposing new coronavirus restrictions after an increase in cases and hospitalizations, despite having one of the world's best vaccination rates.

Portuguese health authorities on Wednesday recorded 2,527 new cases and more than 500 hospitalizations, the highest figures since early September.

More than 86 percent of Portugal's population have been fully vaccinated and authorities are urging the over-65s to take a third COVID vaccine dose.

The vaccines' protection against severe illness and death means any new restrictive measures will not be as "drastic" as before, government spokesperson Mariana Vieira da Silva told local media in Lisbon.

The government said it would make a decision after meeting scientific experts on Friday.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa on Tuesday warned of greater restrictions as the festive season approaches but ruled out imposing another state of emergency.

"We must act now. The later we act, the greater the risks," he said.

Portugal's state of emergency, which lasted from November 2020 to April 2021, allowed restrictions such as a lockdown imposed at the start of the year as a fresh wave of COVID-19 infections hit the southern European country hard.

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa on Tuesday said the return of compulsory mask-wearing -- in force between October 2020 and September 13, 2021 -- in outdoor settings was inevitable.

Wearing masks remains recommended for gatherings and where social distancing is impossible.

Portugal has recorded more than 1.1 million COVID cases and 18,283 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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