Portugal on Thursday announced a three-stage plan to lift Covid-19 restrictions, including scrapping a night-time curfew, as the country’s vaccination rollout speeds up, helping to bring a recent surge in infections under control.
From Sunday, the 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew will no longer be in force and restrictions on the opening hours of restaurants and shops will also be lifted, Prime Minister Antonio Costa told a news conference.
Fans can return to sporting events under certain conditions, which have yet to be clarified, and although working remotely is still recommended, it will no longer be compulsory.
“Vaccination has contributed very significantly to (allowing) these measures… but we cannot ignore the fact that… the virus continues to circulate…. the pandemic has not disappeared,” Costa said.
A new wave of Covid-19 cases hit Portugal earlier this month, returning to February levels when the country was under a strict lockdown to tackle what was then the world’s worst coronavirus surge.
But daily deaths and hospitalisations remain well below February levels, with new cases primarily reported among younger, unvaccinated people who are less likely to fall seriously ill.
More restrictions will be slowly lifted over the next few months as more and more people get their coronavirus jabs. Around half of the population is now fully vaccinated and all those aged 18 or over can now book appointments.
In the second phase of the plan, which starts in September when 70 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, the compulsory use of masks in outdoor areas will end but will still be required in big gatherings. Masks will remain compulsory indoors.
Nightclubs and bars, which have been shut since last March, are expected to reopen the following month but the EU digital certificate or a negative coronavirus test will be required to enter.
The digital certificate or a negative test is also needed to stay in hotels, dine indoors at restaurants at the weekend, and attend fitness group classes at the gym, spas, casinos, weddings and big events.
(Reporting by Catarina Demony and Sergio Goncalves. Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
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