07 Jan 2022
Students in Portugal will be permitted to return to schools as from next week, despite a record rise in Covid cases, with hospital admissions remaining under previous levels, according to the government.
"It is evident that the Omicron variant is less severe ... vaccination has been effective against it," Prime Minister Antonio Costa told a news conference.
"That's why we have a much lower number of hospitalisations, fewer people in ICU and deaths."
The Omicron variant reached Portugal back in November, resulting in a surge in case numbers. Around 89% of the country is fully vaccinated, one of the highest in the world.
The Directorate-General of Health stated that after Portugal reached close to 40,000 daily cases on Wednesday, the figure moved down to 39,074 on Thursday, Reuters reports. The health authority registered 25 fatalities, a rise from Wednesday’s 14, but nowhere near the 300 daily fatalities recorded last January during the previous peak of the pandemic. As it stands, the death toll in Portugal stands at 19,054 people.
As from Monday, only people with Covid and those they live with are required to isolate. Citizens who have had the third booster vaccine - totalling around three million – no longer need to isolate.
Although students are allowed to return to school on Monday, the work-from-home order, which came into effect at Christmas, will remain in force until 14 January, the PM added.
In addition, bars and nightclubs will be allowed to reopen their doors on 14 January, but proof of a negative Covid test is mandatory. All air passengers travelling to the country will also still need to provide a negative test.
The rising Covid case numbers comes three weeks ahead of a snap general election scheduled for 30 January. Earlier this week, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said isolation regulations may be relaxed or suspended on election day.