The Portuguese government has extended the country’s Covid-19 lockdown until March 1 as it battles to relieve pressure on the healthcare system, with hospitals under more strain than at any previous time in the pandemic.
“The truth is that the country’s hospital capacity continues to be put to the test … so there is no alternative but to reduce cases,” President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said in a statement before parliament approved the prolonged shutdown.
Portugal’s current lockdown, its second of the pandemic, was put in place on January 15, and forces bars, restaurants, non-essential shops, and schools to stay closed.
Speaking after the extension of the lockdown, Prime Minister António Costa said the country needed to take “extra care” over the UK variant of the virus, which he warned was already “greatly prevalent” in Portugal.
The extended period of restrictions comes as the country’s health system struggles to treat some 6,400 Covid-19 patients who remain in hospital and on intensive care wards.
The country recently received support for its healthcare system from Germany, which sent 26 medical workers, 150 infusion machines, and 50 ventilators to Lisbon.
Portugal’s infection rate has fallen in the past fortnight, but its average daily death rate of 143 per 100,000 people is among the highest in the world, according to the US’ Johns Hopkins University.
The country, which boasts a population of 10 million people, has recorded almost 775,000 Covid-19 cases during the pandemic and 14,718 deaths due to the virus.
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