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Portugal asks other European partners for Covid jabs

Portugal has asked other European countries for supplies of coronavirus vaccines to help accelerate its inoculation campaign, Health Minister Marta Temido said on Tuesday.

Lisbon “has made a huge effort” to “receive more vaccines”, the minister said at the end of a meeting of experts to review the health situation.

Around 45 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, with the government aiming for 70 percent by the end of August.

Portugal hopes to receive nearly a million doses in the next three weeks, said Henrique Gouveia e Melo, the coordinator of the national vaccination programme.

The country has already obtained about 290,000 doses from Norway and is negotiating with Italy to obtain a further 300,000.

It received 200,000 AstraZeneca doses from Hungary on Tuesday, intended for Portuguese-speaking African countries and East Timor.

The help in sourcing vaccines shows the “spirit of European cooperation”, said Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva, accompanied by his Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjarto.

In Portugal, the government is waiting for the green light from the health authorities to push ahead with plans to vaccinate 12-17 year olds before the start of the school year.

“Vaccination of children is essential. Without it there will be a peak in new cases” in the autumn, epidemiologist Henrique de Barros said at the meeting with the government.

Some of the scientific experts consulted on Tuesday said the country should be close to the peak of the latest wave.

They argued for a change in restriction measures depending on the vaccination rate.

About 6.5 million people in the country of 10 million have already received one vaccine dose and 4.5 million are fully vaccinated.

Portugal has been hit for several weeks by an upsurge in new infections due to the Delta variant, which now accounts for more than 98 percent of cases.

In an attempt to contain the epidemic, the government has decided to extend the use of a “health pass” restricting access to hotels and restaurants for the unvaccinated and to institute a night-time curfew in the most affected areas.