Portugal curbs travel, extends lockdown in face of world's worst virus surge

Portugal extended a nationwide lockdown until mid-February and announced curbs on international travel on Thursday, as Prime Minister Antonio Costa accepted blame for the world’s worst coronavirus surge, with hospitals on the verge of being overrun.

With a population of 10 million, Portugal reported a record 303 COVID-19 deaths and 16,432 new cases on Thursday, and now has the world’s highest per capita seven-day averages of both new cases and deaths.

To try to curb the spread, Portuguese nationals will be banned from travelling to other countries by air, land or sea over the next 15 days and strict checks along the 1,200-km (750-mile) border with Spain will be put in place, the government announced.

Costa told TVI broadcaster overnight the situation was “terrible ... and we’ll face this worst moment for a few more weeks”.

He said the situation had worsened partly because his government relaxed restrictions over the Christmas holiday, with the country now grappling with the more contagious new variant of the virus first detected in Britain.

Parliament voted to extend the new lockdown until at least Feb. 14. It came into force on Jan. 15 for the first time since the initial wave. Non-essential services are closed, remote work is compulsory where possible and schools are shut.

Between Portugal and neighbouring Spain, travel will only be allowed for the transportation of goods or for health reasons. Workers and Portuguese nationals returning home can cross the land border too.

Officials said the first phase of Portugal’s vaccination plan would be extended by around two months into April as delivery delays meant the country would receive just half the expected doses by March.

(c) Reuters


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