Effective December 1, the Portuguese government has declared a “state of calamity” imposing new sanitary restrictions considered “necessary” to contain the rebound in the COVID’19 pandemic, after the worst data has been release since February.
The state of calamity declaration, the second this year, is one step below a state of emergency and gives the government the authority to impose stricter measures without parliamentary approval.
Among the preventive measures, the use of masks has become mandatory in all closed spaces and a COVID vaccine certificate will be required to access most public places. Nightclubs, hospitals, nursing homes and sports venues require tests from visitors and patrons, including vaccinated ones. Controls at the land border also returned, where the certificate will be required, while those arriving by air must present a negative test.
These sanitary restrictions are being implemented even though Portugal is the EU country with the highest vaccination rate against COVID’19. The outbreak of the omicron variant has also raised concerns about what may happen in the coming weeks of holiday celebrations.
According to Director-General of Health, Graça Freitas, infections could worsen and double to around 9,000 during the Christmas period, and Prime Minister António Costa has said the government would increase restrictions further if needed.
With vaccination levels at around 87% of the population, among the highest in the world, Portugal is reporting fewer hospitalizations and deaths, below levels of previous waves of the pandemic.
The country has registered more than 1.1 million cases since the beginning of the pandemic, while the number of deaths exceeds 18,400. On Wednesday, 4,607 new infections were reported, a significant increase from previous days. An outbreak of the omicron variant among professional soccer club Belenenses, in Lisbon, and a medical worker who had contact with them has also added to concerns.
Travelers from the US are advised to check COVID’19 guidelines by visiting the website of the United States Embassy in Portugal, updated daily.