LISBON (Reuters) -Portugal’s government will not hesitate to increase restrictions over Christmas if needed to control a recent jump in COVID-19 cases, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said on Wednesday.
Despite having one of the world’s highest COVID-19 vaccination rates, Portugal has reimposed some restrictions due to a recent rise in infections and the emergence of the Omicron variant.
The country of just over 10 million reported a total of 4,670 new infections on Wednesday, the highest daily jump since the beginning of February, when it faced its toughest battle against the virus.
Deaths and hospitalisations, however, remain far below levels seen during that period.
When asked if the government might take further restrictive measures during the Christmas period, Costa told reporters: “We all wish that these measures were not necessary, but if they become necessary, we will take these measures.”
To tackle the latest surge, the government reimposed on Wednesday mandatory mask-wearing in indoor public spaces, recommended remote work whenever possible, and ordered all air passengers to show a negative test on arrival even if they are vaccinated.
The only exemptions are for people who have a recovery certificate after having caught the virus, as well as children aged 12 or below.
Although the new rules are being widely respected, Police Superintendent Valente Pinho told reporters that on Wednesday morning a total of 20 passengers have been fined 300-800 euros for travelling to Portugal, through Lisbon airport, without a COVID-19 test.
He said airlines that transported the untested passengers have also been fined 20,000-40,000 euros per person.
(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; Additional reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Nathan Allen, Mark Heinrich, Paul Simao and David Gregorio)