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Portugal records no new COVID deaths for just the second time since beginning of pandemic

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People wearing face masks walk across a street in Lisbon, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021.
People wearing face masks walk across a street in Lisbon, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Armando Franca
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Portugal has recorded no new COVID-19 deaths for the first time since August, said authorities.

The Ministry for Health reported on Monday that the country's pandemic death toll stood unchanged at 16,965.

Sunday's figures are just the second time since the beginning of the pandemic that Portugal has registered a COVID-19-death-free day.

The number of confirmed cases, however, grew by 196 to 834,638.

The country locked down hard and fast during the first wave of the pandemic and initially escaped the fate of its neighbour, Spain, where the number of deaths shot up quickly. By the end of May 2020, Portugal had recorded 1,300 deaths, compared to Spain's 28,600.

But it didn't fare as well in the second wave with daily fatalities shooting up in January.

Now, Portugal's COVID mortality is level with Spain, respectively at 165.2 and 164.8 deaths per 100,000 population, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The government reimposed a lockdown in January and started easing restrictions again earlier this month: cultural sites and some non-essential businesses, including gyms, were allowed to reopen under strict sanitary conditions. Café and restaurant terraces were also given the go-ahead but with a maximum of four people allowed to sit together.

Borders however have remained shut with only "essential travel" allowed for travellers from other EU member states provided they show a negative COVID test. A 14-day quarantine is also compulsory for people coming from member states where the incidence rate is greater than 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

Portugal currently has the bloc's lowest incidence rate, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, with 75.05 cases per 100,000 population. It is the only nation whose incidence is lower than 100 cases per 100,000.