The Portuguese government on Wednesday ordered a nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus, although there will be some exceptions so that the country’s presidential elections can be held on January 24.
Portugal has seen a record-breaking rebound in confirmed COVID-19 cases after it eased restrictions for the Christmas season.
Prime Minister António Costa said the pandemic is “at its most dangerous point.” The lockdown will take effect on Friday and will last at least a month, he said.
There was a sense of hope in the nation after the virus vaccination campaign began and that also “encouraged people to lower their guard, and that makes the pandemic even more dangerous,” Costa said during a conference on press.
Under the confinement restrictions, it will be mandatory to stay at home, including to work, and fines will be doubled for those who do not comply with the rules, such as wearing masks on the street, said the prime minister.
Schools will keep their doors open, as will essential service companies. Financial assistance will be provided to businesses that have to close, such as restaurants, cinemas, and beauty salons.
Portuguese health authorities reported 10,556 new cases of coronavirus and 156 deaths related to the disease in the last 24 hours on Wednesday, both record figures. Experts predicted that the number of new daily cases will peak within a week.
Portugal, which began its vaccination campaign in the last week of December, has recorded more than 8,200 deaths from the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.
Its case rate is 517 infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. That puts Portugal in 12th place in the table of 31 countries monitored by the European Union agency.
A week ago, the case rate in the last 14 days was 466.