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Portugal halts easing of COVID-19 rules in Lisbon as cases rise

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By Reuters
Portugal halts easing of COVID-19 rules in Lisbon as cases rise
Portugal halts easing of COVID-19 rules in Lisbon as cases rise   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

By Catarina Demony

LISBON – Most of Portugal will move to the next stage of lockdown easing next Monday but stricter rules will remain in place in the capital Lisbon due to a worrying rise in COVID-19 infections, the government said on Wednesday.

Portugal imposed a nationwide lockdown in January to tackle what then was the world’s worst coronavirus surge, but restrictions have been gradually lifted since mid-March and most businesses have already reopened.

Across most of the country, restaurants, cafes and pastry shops, which now must close at 10.30 p.m., will be able to keep doors open until 1 a.m. from June 14, and there are no more restrictions on stores’ opening hours.

Cultural shows can go on until 1 a.m. and venues for amateur sports activities will be able to welcome back people at reduced capacity. Remote work will no longer be mandatory but it is still recommended.

However, Lisbon and three other municipalities will not move to the next phase of the plan to ease the lockdown and the rules currently in place will remain unchanged until the COVID-19 situation improves.

A country of just over 10 million, Portugal has reported a total of 854,522 infections since the pandemic started and 17,037 deaths. It posted 890 new cases but no deaths on Wednesday, the biggest daily jump since early March.

Most new cases were concentrated in and around Lisbon.

“The situation in the Lisbon area is worrying,” Cabinet Minister Mariana Vieira da Silva told a news conference. “We are having difficulties in reducing cases.”

All companies with more than 150 workers must test their employees and tests will now be required to access some events, she said.

The decision came after the government came under fire for allowing two mass gatherings of football fans to take place – one in Lisbon when Sporting, won the Portuguese title and one in Porto for the Champions League final.