(Corrects para 6 to say rules apply to Lisbon municipality, not Lisbon region)
By Catarina Demony and Victoria Waldersee
LISBON (Reuters) -Stricter COVID-19 rules will be imposed across the Lisbon region and Algarve tourism magnet Albufeira as Portuguese authorities try to control a rise in infections that threatens the country’s summer holiday season.
“We are in a fight against time between the progression of the disease and the process of vaccination,” Cabinet Minister Mariana Vieira da Silva told a news conference on Thursday.
Portugal was still “far from its red lines but on the increase,” she said. (Graphic on global cases and deaths) https://tmsnrt.rs/34pvUyi
More than half of cases in Lisbon are of the more infectious Delta coronavirus variant, first identified in India.
From 3 p.m. on Friday until 6 a.m. on Monday, people must present a negative coronavirus test or a vaccination certificate to leave or enter the Lisbon region. The tests must be PCR or antigen tests. Antigen tests are available for free in Lisbon pharmacies.
Restaurants, cafes and non-food shops in the Lisbon municipality must close at 3:30 p.m. over the weekend. Supermarkets and grocery stores must close at 7 p.m. These rules will also be in force in two other municipalities, including Albufeira in the southern Algarve region, famous for its beaches and golf courses.
The measures, prompted by a surge in coronavirus cases especially in and around the capital, are reviewed on a weekly basis but are likely to remain in place until the situation improves.
New coronavirus cases rose by 1,556 on Thursday, the biggest jump since late February, when the country of just over 10 million people was still under lockdown. In total, Portugal has recorded 869,879 cases and 17,079 deaths.
The jump in infections comes around a month after tourism-dependent Portugal opened to visitors from the European Union and Britain.
“We would all like to have an end date for this situation, but we don’t,” Vieira da Silva said. “We need to respond early. The Delta variant has a large presence here.”
Portugal is also speeding up the vaccination of younger people, with those aged 18 and above able to register from July 4. Around 30% of the population has been fully vaccinated so far. (Graphic on global vaccinations) https://tmsnrt.rs/3tUM8ta
Portugal’s tourism workers are scared the rise in cases could have a negative impact on the usually busy summer season. The once-booming tourism sector suffered its worst results since the mid-1980s last year.
“Given the rampant contagion situation, it is very likely Lisbon will really ‘close’ and, if that happens, we will not be able to open hotels and those that were open will have to close again,” said Eurico Almeida, CEO of the Real Hotels chain.
(Reporting by Catarina Demony and Victoria Waldersee; Additional reporting by Sergio Goncalves; Editing by Alison Williams and Lisa Shumaker)