Wary Portuguese welcome return of restrictions amid COVID-19 surge

Portugal finds 13 cases of Omicron variant at Lisbon soccer club
Portugal finds 13 cases of Omicron variant at Lisbon soccer club Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021
Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021
By Reuters
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By Miguel Pereira and Catarina Demony

LISBON - Many Portuguese are welcoming the return of some COVID-19 restrictions announced by the government on Thursday night amid a surge in infections and the threat of a new highly contagious variant, and some are calling for even tougher measures.

Portugal's population has largely been more accepting of anti-COVID measures and the use of vaccines than in some other European countries, where protests have erupted lately.

"I approve. There has to be something that brakes the spread. This is not over yet, and we don't know when it will be ... So I think it's very good as we have to be really careful," Antonia Costa, a 62-year-old Lisbon resident, said of the measures.

Boasting an 87% vaccination rate, one of the world's highest, Portugal has ordered mandatory mask-wearing in indoor public spaces, recommended remote work whenever possible and made it mandatory during the first week of January, also toughening requirements for coronavirus tests.

Those who are fully vaccinated must present proof of a negative test to enter nightclubs, bars and large events, while the EU digital certificate will be required to stay in hotels, go to the gym, or dine indoors in restaurants.

"I think the measures are still not enough, but let's wait and see what is the best manner" to control the disease, said Maria de Fatima, another Lisbon resident in her 50s.

The restrictions, including the requirement for all passengers arriving in Portugal, whose economy is heavily dependent on tourism, to show a negative test certificate on arrival, come into force next Wednesday.

Joao Valente, a 70-year-old pensioner, said measures "could be stricter, but for now, so as to not affect the economy, they are reasonable."

Portugal reported 3,773 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the highest daily figure in four months, but deaths remain far below levels seen during the worst peak of coronavirus infections in January.

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