Travel in and out of the Portuguese capital of Lisbon is to be banned over coming weekends as authorities respond to a spike in new Covid-19 cases in the region, it was announced on Thursday.
The ban in the area, where about 2.8 million people live, comes into effect from 3pm on Friday in an effort to contain the surge.
Cabinet spokeswoman, Mariana Vieira da Silva, said: “We’re aware (the travel ban) isn’t easy and that it’s not what people want, but we feel it’s necessary to protect the rest of the country.”
The travel restrictions are open-ended, pending periodic reviews. Flights out of Lisbon airport are exempt from the ban, as are work-related journeys. Police control points will check travellers.
Portugal is witnessing a spike in new daily cases not seen since February. Authorities reported that 804 of the 1,233 new cases detected on Thursday were in the Lisbon region.
Experts believe there is community transmission of the highly contagious Delta variant in the Lisbon region.
The region this week crossed the red line established by authorities of a 14-day cumulative case notification rate per 100,000 people of 240. On Thursday, Lisbon’s notification rate was 254. The national rate was 90.
While public hospitals are not yet under pressure, some of them are readying for more Covid-19 admissions. Doctors have warned the changes could bring new delays for regular health appointments, adding to a backlog that has built up over the past 15 months.
Lisbon City Council announced on Thursday that it will open vaccination centres seven days a week, from 8 am to 10 pm, from July 1 in an effort to speed up inoculations.
Meanwhile, the General Directorate for Health said it was cutting the period between taking the two AstraZeneca vaccine doses from 12 to eight weeks amid the emergence of “worrying variants”.
Portugal, with a population of 10.3 million, has inoculated 42% of its population with a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and 25% have had both jabs.