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Portugal reports record Covid cases amid Omicron surge

Portugal on Tuesday reported record-high daily coronavirus cases despite having one of the world’s highest vaccination rates as the Omicron variant surges across Europe.

Health authorities registered 17,172 new infections in the past 24 hours, surpassing the previous record of 16,432 established on January 28 when the Alpha variant, first identified in Britain, swept through the southern European nation.

Health Minister Marta Temido said Portugal could reach 37,000 daily cases around January 7 next year, saying the surge in infections was putting “enormous pressure” on healthcare and virus tracing systems.

Almost 90 percent of Portugal’s population has been vaccinated and almost 2.4 million people have received a third “booster” jab.

The United Arab Emirates is the only country with a higher proportion of vaccinated people.

Omicron, which has fuelled a sharp rise in cases across Europe, became the dominant Covid-19 strain in Portugal before Christmas.

Despite the rise in cases, the numbers of people admitted to hospital and in intensive care with Covid-19 are a fraction of the peak reached during Portugal’s winter wave.

The government has introduced restrictions to stem the tide of infections, including the wider use of vaccine certificates and masks, making remote working compulsory and closing bars and nightclubs.

School holidays were also extended until January 9 to reduce social contacts after the festive period.