Portugal to shut schools as pandemic worsens - Lusa news agency
Portugal is preparing to shut all kindergartens, schools and universities from Friday to tackle a steep rise in coronavirus cases, Lusa news agency and Publico newspaper said on Thursday.Reuters | Updated: 21-01-2021 17:51 IST | Created: 21-01-2021 16:52 IST
Portugal is preparing to shut all kindergartens, schools and universities from Friday to tackle a steep rise in coronavirus cases, Lusa news agency and Publico newspaper said on Thursday. The country managed to keep the number of coronavirus cases under control last year but now has the world's highest rolling average of new cases and deaths per million inhabitants over the last seven days, according to data tracker ourworldindata.org.
A government spokeswoman said the cabinet was discussing possible new measures to tackle the pandemic but declined to give details. Without waiting for the government announcement, expected at around 1300 GMT, some local officials were urging parents to keep their children at home.
"If you have the chance, don't let your children go to school. Time is essential in controlling the effects of a catastrophe," Carlos Carreiras, the mayor of the Cascais municipality, near Lisbon, wrote on Facebook. Under a lockdown that started last week, all non-essential services are shut and people urged to stay home, but the government has so far kept schools open.
Parents' groups, students and opposition parties had been urging the government to close schools. "It is not good to come to classes as there are high-risk groups we could infect," Frederico Nunes, a 20-year-old university student in Lisbon, said. "I think it is annoying because this could have been avoided if the government had adopted online classes."
The government has blamed the increase in cases on the more contagious variant of the coronavirus first detected in Britain, which is spreading rapidly across Portugal, but health experts also point to a lack of preparation and say there are not enough medical staff. Daily coronavirus cases rose 40% on Wednesday from the day before to a record 14,647, with doctors warning the health system is on the verge of collapse.
Around 20% of new COVID-19 cases being reported are of the more transmissible variant and that number could reach 60% as early as next week, Health Minister Marta Temido told broadcaster RTP on Wednesday. A hospital launched an inquiry in the city of Portalegre on Tuesday after an elderly man died in an ambulance in which he had been waiting for about three hours because the COVID-19 unit he should have been transferred to was full. (Writing by Catarina Demony and Ingrid Melander; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
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