Prime Minister António Costa is expected to address the nation this Friday, the day earmarked by the government for a final decision on whether it is wise to open the country up for Christmas. Photo: FRANCISCO SECO/LUSA

New weekend lockdown announced for Portugal as Covid cases hit nearly 10,000 for second day running

The Council of Ministers has announced yet another weekend borough lockdown for every borough in the country as Portugal battles against the relentless spread of new coronavirus infections.

With hospitals in the Lisbon area already focused only on intensive care cases, news coming through before the meeting showed that even this hasn’t been enough to stem the situation of absolute emergency.

Hospital Amadora-Sintra (forever challenged by the requirements of its highly-populated catchment area) has had to activate its ‘catastrophe’ plan as even without treating non-Covid patients it has “practically run out of beds”, reports TVI.

Presenting the new measures to reporters just before 2.30pm, prime minister António Costa said the number of new infections flagged through testing in the last 24-hours is almost as high as the record 10,027 counted yesterday.

In the face of such pressure – and the risk of yet more patients requiring emergency treatment in the immediate future – the Council of Ministers has decided that every borough will have to be ‘locked down’ this weekend.

Meetings with health experts, the president, other political parties and social partners will now go ahead before the government decides whether “even tougher restrictions” are required before January 15 (the moment when the current State of Emergency comes up for renewal).

Said Mr Costa, it seems highly likely today that tougher restrictions will be needed.

In fact it is more than possible that Portugal is heading for another national lockdown

However “every day counts”, which is why ministers have decided on the plan for this weekend.

Said Mr Costa: “I don’t want to anticipate measures. Hope is the last thing to die; we must have hope”.

He suggested it ‘could be’ that the record high numbers of the last two days owed themselves to laboratories that have been running at half speed through the festive break have suddenly ‘caught up’. But if they show themselves to be what he termed “a negative evolution” of the virus, then “it is evident that we have to do what we have to do…”

Only 25 boroughs escape the other restrictive measure imposed for the weekend: a 1pm curfew on Saturday and Sunday which involves no-one in the ‘public highway’ (ie outside) after that time (unless it is for a reason deemed essential, see below).

Council areas exempt from the 1pm curfew are those registering less than 240 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, or ‘moderate risk’ boroughs.

In the Algarve, they are: Alcoutim, Aljezur, Lagoa, Monchique, Vila do Bispo.

Elsewhere, they are: Arronches, Barrancos, Carrazedo de Ansiães, Castanheira de Pêra, Castelo de Vide, Coruche, Ferreira do Alentejo, Freixo de Espada à Cinta, Manteigas, Odemira, Pampilhosa da Serra, Proença-a-Nova, Resende, Santiago de Cacém, Sardoal, Sernancelhe, Sines, Torre de Moncorvo and Vila de Rei.

Reasons considered ‘essential’ for leaving one’s home during a weekend lockdown include: the need to buy medication/ receive medical assistance/ buy food/ go to the aid of a sick relative/ exercise one’s pet/ take part in political/ diplomatic or similar business or go to work (if this cannot be done remotely).

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com