Portugal goes into lockdown amid record-breaking virus surge
LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Portugal’s government ordered the country into a coronavirus lockdown Wednesday, but with exceptions so a presidential election can go ahead on Jan. 24.
Portugal has witnessed a record-breaking surge in confirmed COVID-19 cases since it eased restrictions for the Christmas holiday.
Prime Minister António Costa said the pandemic is “at its most dangerous point.” The lockdown starting Friday will last at least a month, he said.
A sense of hope prompted by the recent COVID-19 vaccine rollout “encouraged people to drop their guard and makes the pandemic even more dangerous,” Costa said during a news conference.
Under the terms of the lockdown, staying at home will be mandatory, including for work, and fines for not complying with rules such as wearing masks in the street will double, the prime minister said.
Schools are to remain open, along with companies providing essential services. Financial help will be provided for businesses that have to close, such as restaurants, cinemas and hair salons.
Portuguese health authorities on Wednesday reported 10,556 new confirmed cases and 156 virus-related deaths in 24 hours, both national records. Previous records were shattered in recent days. Health experts predict the number of new daily cases will reach a peak in a week’s time.
Portugal, which began a vaccination program in the last week of December, has officially recorded more than 8,200 deaths from the coronavirus.
Its 14-day rate of cases per 100,000 inhabitants is 517, according to the European Centre for Disease Control. That places Portugal in 12th highest place in the table of 31 countries monitored by the European Union agency.
A week ago, the 14-day rate was 466.
The upcoming presidential election is scheduled to go ahead as...