Portuguese authorities have confirmed suspicions that the Delta coronavirus variant first identified in India is driving a spike in new cases in the Lisbon region.
Portugal’s National Health Institute said on Sunday that the highly infectious variant that was first found in India has a prevalence of 60% of new cases in the nation’s capital.
The recent surge in infections has prompted authorities to ban all weekend travel in and out of Lisbon, starting this weekend. The Lisbon metropolitan area has around 2.8 million inhabitants.
Portugal is witnessing a spike in new daily cases not seen since February. Authorities reported that 862 of the 1,298 new cases detected on Friday were in the Lisbon region.
This week Lisbon also crossed the 'red line' established by health officials of a 14-day cumulative case notification rate per 100,000 people of 240.
While public hospitals are not yet thought to be under serious pressure, some of them are readying for more COVID-19 admissions in weeks to come.
Doctors have warned the changes could bring new delays for regular health appointments, adding to a backlog that has built up over the past 15 months.
Lisbon City Council announced on Thursday that it will open vaccination centres seven days a week, from 8am to 10 pm, from July 1 in an effort to speed up inoculations.
So far about 42 per cent of Portugal's 10.2 million-strong population have received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 25 per cent have had both jabs.