Despite high jab rate, Portugal mulls new COVID-19 measures

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Portugal has vaccinated 86% of the country against the coronavirus, but the prime minister warned Tuesday that the latest infection surge across Europe compels the Portuguese government to consider precautionary measures.

“We can’t ignore the signs,” Prime Minister António Costa said of the European Union’s growing number of new confirmed cases. “The later we act, the greater the risk.”

Costa has convened a Friday meeting of health experts to assess what measures may be required. After that, he plans to meet with the leaders of opposition parties.

“We have to be especially careful” because of the approaching winter and flu season, Costa told reporters Tuesday. “We can’t let our guard down because of the vaccine.”

Infection rates, deaths and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are relatively low in Portugal compared with the rest of the European Union, and Costa said he does not expect a return to lockdowns.

New restrictions on gatherings and rules on mask-wearing are possible, however. COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing serious illness but don’t stop coronavirus infections.

From roughly mid-September through the end of October, Portugal officially reported fewer than 1,000 new infections a day. The daily number of new cases is now climbing toward 2,000.

So far, daily deaths of people with COVID-19 remain in the single digits, and the number of infected patients requiring ICU treatment has been below 100 since mid-September.

Portugal is currently administering booster shots to people over 65.

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