Portugal returns to COVID-19 restrictions despite high vaccination coverage

Portugal is bringing back some tough pandemic restrictions, less than two months after most of them were lifted when the goal of vaccinating 86% of the population against COVID-19 was reached.

A recent rise in the number of coronavirus infections forced the government into action, Prime Minister António Costa said on Thursday, though noting that his country has seen no rise on the scale seen elsewhere in Europe.

From 1 December, wearing a face mask in enclosed spaces is mandatory again; when entering restaurants, cinemas and hotels, a digital certificate must be presented showing that vaccination or recovery from the coronavirus is required; and even vaccinated people must have a negative test to visit hospitals, retirement homes, sporting events and bars and discos.

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Furthermore, anyone arriving on a flight from abroad must submit a negative test result.

The government also recommended regular self-tests and working from home as much as possible.

The rollout of booster shots is ramping up, Costa said.

People in protective masks walk through the streets of Graça, Lisbon. November 18, 2021. Portugal, which tops the list of countries with the highest Covid-19 vaccination rates in the world, is considering new restrictions to prevent any

The measures are necessary, Costa said, because of the increase in cases in some other EU countries, because the approaching winter often brings more respiratory infections and because families will be in close contact over Christmas.

Authorities say there is currently no need for another lockdown in Portugal as hospitals have to cope.

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The Directorate-General for Health officially reported 3,150 new cases on Thursday, with 691 people hospitalized, 103 in intensive care units and 15 deaths. The number of hospital admissions was the highest since September.

As of November 1, Portugal reported fewer than 500 new infections, 360 people hospitalized, 60 in intensive care and five deaths. Those figures were comparable to those of a month earlier.

Nearly 18,400 people have died from COVID-19 in the country of approximately 10.3 million.

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