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COVID-19: Portugal’s crisis intensifies as deaths soar

Nation’s public medical association says physicians are being forced to prioritize patients

Alyssa McMurtry   | 19.01.2021
COVID-19: Portugal’s crisis intensifies as deaths soar FILE PHOTO


Portugal shattered its record for daily coronavirus deaths Tuesday as hospitals struggle to cope with an unprecedented influx of patients.

The Health Ministry reported 218 more fatalities, shattering the record set Monday of 167 deaths.

The country of 10 million never reported more than 100 daily COVID-19 deaths before 2021. In total, 9,246 people have died from the disease in Portugal.

New contagions also remain at near-record highs, with nearly 10,300 new infections registered – one of the highest infection rates globally per capita.

As a consequence, active hospitalizations continue to climb to unsustainable levels in some areas.

“Health professionals are having to make complex and very difficult decisions in the context of disaster medicine and establish priority criteria,” the Order of Physicians, the regulatory body for Portuguese doctors, said Monday. “[Doctors] are unable to save all lives.”

Portugal went into a lockdown Friday, and tighter measures will take effect at midnight Tuesday, forbidding travel between districts during the weekend, banning sales at stores, and deploying police outside schools to prevent students from forming groups.

Last week, authorities were adamant about keeping schools open during the lockdown, but Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said Tuesday the decision is being reconsidered.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa said he accepted responsibility for the crisis.

“If I knew what would have happened, I would never have defended those measures,” he said, referring to the temporary loosening rules for Christmas.

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