LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal reported more than 3,000 daily coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours for the first time since February, data showed on Wednesday, as authorities pondered further measures to bring under control a worrying surge in infections.
Wednesday’s 3,285 new cases, a nearly 40% jump from the same day last week, brought the total number of infections in Portugal, a country of just over 10,000 million, to 896,026 since the pandemic started.
New cases are being reported mostly among unvaccinated younger people so daily deaths have remained in single digits, well below February’s levels, when the country was still under a strict lockdown.
The lockdown was imposed in January to tackle what was then the world’s worst coronavirus surge but the fourth wave of the pandemic – caused by the more infectious Delta variant – is hitting the southern European nation hard.
Nearly 90% of cases in Portugal are of the Delta variant.
The infection rate started to increase after Portugal opened to visitors from the European Union and Britain in mid-May. Now, most businesses have reopened and, as the summer season kicks off, beaches and restaurants are busy.
A night-time curfew was put in place last week in 45 municipalities including Lisbon, Porto and Albufeira, and restaurants and non-food shops must close earlier at the weekend in some areas.
News outlet images showed hundreds of young holidaymakers partying in the streets of Albufeira, a popular destination in the southern Algarve region, on Tuesday evening.
To tackle the surge, Portugal accelerated its vaccination campaign. Government ministers will meet on Thursday to decide on the next steps and might announce further measures.
Asked if a state of emergency could be reimposed at some point, Health Minister Marta Temido said it was not “totally impossible,” adding the pandemic situation was under “constant evaluation”.
(Reporting by Catarina Demony and Patricia Vicente Rua; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)