Portugal announces new COVID restrictions

The Portuguese government announced a tightening of COVID-19 restrictions Thursday, including tougher border controls, as the EU’s most-vaccinated country grapples with a spike in new infections. 

“Despite the vaccination success … we have to be aware we are entering a high-risk phase because we see a big rise in the pandemic in the rest of Europe and Portugal is not an island,” said Prime Minister António Costa. 

He announced a return on December 1 of the “state of calamity” lifted four months ago. 

Under the new rules, all passengers flying into Portugal will have to show a negative test before boarding and airlines will face a fine of €20,000 per passenger for failing to check.

Vaccine certificates will be obligatory for entry into hotels, restaurants, gyms and cultural events; masks will again be required for indoor public spaces; visitors to care homes, hospitals, bars, dance halls and big sports and cultural events will have to show negative tests. 

For a “containment week” starting January 2, tele-work will be obligatory, bars closed and school holidays extended to prevent a post-holiday season spread, Costa said.

With over 87 percent of its population vaccinated, Portugal’s infection rates are well below countries in northern and eastern worst hit by the current pandemic resurgence.

However, it too has suffered a sharp rise in infections this month. On Wednesday, Portugal registered 3,773 new coronavirus cases, the highest level since late June.  

Besides the new restrictions, the authorities are stepping up the distribution of booster jabs for the vaccinated.  

In the country of 10.3 million, over 850,000 have received booster jabs and 2.5 million should get theirs by January, António Lacerda Sales, the secretary of state of health, said Wednesday.  

Four “open days” will be held in December for those who received the single-jab Johnson & Johnson vaccine to get a second shot. 

However, delays and accusations of chaotic organisation have sparked calls for a return of Vice-Admiral Henrique Gouveia e Melo, the former submarine commander who achieved national hero status for coordinating Portugal’s world-leading vaccine rollout before stepping down in October.

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