Portugal limits UK travel, stops classes amid virus surge

International

People wait in a recovery area after getting shots of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at an inoculation center operated by the Portuguese armed forces at Lisbon University’s sports stadium, Wednesday, June 23, 2021. The Lisbon region’s recent surge in COVID-19 cases is powering ahead, with new infections pushing Portugal’s number of daily cases to a four-month high, as a report by health experts found fault with the government’s pandemic response. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Portugal’s battle to contain the surging COVID-19 delta variant has prompted it to put the United Kingdom on its red list for travel, speed up vaccinations in Lisbon and cancel school classes in the southern Algarve region, its main tourist destination.

Portugal has in recent days been reporting the highest number of daily new coronavirus cases since February. Though hospitals are comfortably coping with new virus admissions, officials say the increase of about 30% over the past week was a worrying trend.

On Monday, the number of coronavirus patients in hospital surpassed 500 for the first time since early April.

The country’s 14-day cumulative COVID-19 case notification rate per 100,000 people, meanwhile, rose to 162 — the highest officially recorded since early March.

Lisbon, the capital, is one of Portugal’s hot spots, with a case rate of 438. The city council said Monday it will extend the opening hours of vaccine centers, with people over 50 allowed to walk in without an appointment. Already last week, Lisbon doubled the number of jabs being administered over seven days, with more than 46,000. The next goal is 65,000 a week.

Also, British travelers who aren’t vaccinated must quarantine for two weeks after arriving in Portugal, the Portuguese government announced Monday. The delta variant is believed to account for almost all of the United Kingdom’s new COVID-19 cases.

British arrivals can quarantine at their home or in a place stipulated by Portuguese health authorities. Arrivals from Brazil, India and South Africa come under the same rule.

All those entering Portugal must show either the European Union’s COVID Digital Certificate or a negative PCR test.

Health authorities in southern Portugal’s Algarve region, known for its numerous beaches and sunny weather, canceled in-person classes for children up to 16 years old in a bid to break transmission chains in five towns, including the well-known vacation spots Albufeira and Faro.

Thousands of British tourists visited the Algarve earlier this month when the British government briefly allowed easier travel to Portugal.

The Algarve Regional Health Authority said classes would stop Monday for at least 12 days. It didn’t say how many students would be affected.

Albufeira’s 14-day COVID-19 case notification rate per 100,000 people stands at 583, it said.

Portugal was the worst-hit country in the world, in terms of weekly infections, in January. But an extended lockdown contained the spread.

Since the pandemic began, Portugal has officially recorded around 870,000 cases of COVID-19 and about 17,000 deaths.

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