LISBON (Reuters) – Stricter measures will be adopted in Portugal’s two biggest cities to contain a worrying rise in coronavirus cases as workers slowly return to offices and pupils gear up to go back to schools, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said on Thursday.
Portugal, which has reported 62,126 cases so far, initially won praise for its response to the pandemic but cases have crept back up, with the health authority reporting on Thursday 585 new infections, mainly in Greater Lisbon and the northern region.
“Since the beginning of August there has been a sustained growth in new cases,” Costa told a news conference. “We cannot ignore the incidence of this pandemic is particularly concentrated in Lisbon and Porto.”
From Sept. 15, the whole country will be put under a state of contingency, meaning gatherings will be limited to 10 people and commercial establishments must close between 8 and 11 p.m..
In the Lisbon and Porto areas, where around 4.5 million people live, special measures will be implemented as workers return to offices, including rotating shifts and staggered starting times to reduce contagion risks.
Each company must ensure rules are followed, Costa said, adding that access to public transport in Lisbon and Porto will also be more limited to avoid overcrowding.
Schools are also a concern as hundreds of thousands of students prepare to return to class from Sept. 14.
To reduce contagion, Costa said restaurants and cafes near schools would be allowed to serve groups of only four people per table or fewer.
“We haven’t won the game,” Costa said. “It is a battle that continues and it depends solely and exclusively on each of us.”
(Reporting by Catarina Demony and Sergio Goncalves, Editing by Catherine Evans)