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Portugal eases restrictions amid low infection rate

Devastated by pandemic 2 months ago, Portugal reports just 1 COVID-19 death on Monday

Alyssa McMurtry   | 19.04.2021
Portugal eases restrictions amid low infection rate FILE PHOTO

OVIEDO, Spain

With the EU's lowest COVID-19 infection rate, Portugal launched its third phase of reopening on Monday.

For the first time in more than three months, high school and university students returned to classrooms and bars and restaurants began serving clients indoors, while large retail stores, malls, theaters and cinemas opened their doors.

Portugal entered into a full lockdown in mid-January after a surge in COVID-19 cases left its hospitals overflowing and thousands of people dead.

But, the country's strict confinement and slow reopening process has borne fruit, slowing down infections.

Portugal's average daily infection rate has fallen to 49 cases per million people. The same figure in neighboring Spain is more than three times higher, while in France, it is nearly ten times more, according to Our World in Data, a tracking website affiliated with Oxford University.

On Monday, for the first time in eight months, continental Portugal reported zero COVID-19 deaths. One woman did lose her life to the disease on the island of Azores.

Still, the country's government remains cautious. Six counties will remain in phase two of the reopening plan, while four others, all located in the southern half of the country, will revert to even tighter measures.

Likewise, the country's border with Spain will stay closed until at least May 1.

Safety measures will also apply in the reopened institutions, such as a limit on four people per table indoors.

The country also aims to give 300,000 students and teachers COVID-19 tests to avoid spread in schools.

It also rolled out a massive vaccination campaign directed at educational staff over the weekend, giving jabs to nearly 170,000 people.

Portugal, a country of 10 million people, has administered a total of around 2.5 million vaccine doses.

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