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Much of Portugal enters new partial lockdown

Large parts of Portugal went into partial lockdown on Wednesday, but the government warned it might have to impose even tighter measures to rein in a second wave of the coronavirus infections.

“If required, tougher measures will be taken,” said Prime Minister Antonio Costa after data showed a record daily increase in the number of deaths on Wednesday — 59.

There were also 7,497 new cases, but that included 3,570 infections detected since last Friday.

Some 2,700 people have died from the virus to date in Portugal.

Costa announced at the weekend a new lockdown in 121 out of 308 districts around the country, lasting at least two weeks and affecting 70 percent of the total population of some 10 million.

People are urged to work from home where possible, but are allowed to leave their homes to go shopping, do exercise and help people in need.

Unlike during the first lockdown, schools are also to remain open. Shops, restaurants and cinemas will also remain open, but must shut earlier.

“If these measures are respected, we hope they will prove enough,” Pedro Simas, a virologist at Lisbon’s Joao Lobo Antunes Institute of Molecular Medicine told AFP.

“The scope of the situation in Portugal is not comparable to that of other countries,” he said, suggesting there was room for manoeuvre to avoid a full lockdown.

Nevertheless, Costa is still seeking parliamentary approval for a health state of emergency and wants to be able legally to curb travel, check people’s temperatures and employ the army to help the health authorities in contact tracing.

People complained of a lack of clarity in the new rules.

“I have never needed anyone to oblige me to do anything whatsoever,” complained 70-year-old pensioner Julio Miguel, who said he had been wearing a mask since the start of the pandemic though that only became obligatory last week.

Others were more inclined to back the government’s efforts.

“These measures are important because the government must do everything possible to keep shops open,” said Marina Mustefaga, a 28-year-old student.