LISBON, July 3 (Reuters) – Portugal said on Saturday it hoped to vaccinate an additional 1.7 million people against COVID-19 over the next two weeks as authorities work to contain a surge in infections caused by the more contagious variant of the Delta.
Cases in Portugal, a country of just over 10 million, jumped by 2,605 on Saturday, the largest increase since February 13, bringing the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to 887,047.
New cases are being reported mostly among unvaccinated youth, so daily coronavirus deaths, currently single digits, remain well below February levels, when the country was still in lockdown after January’s second wave.
Portugal has fully vaccinated around 35% of its population, and people between the ages of 18 and 29 can start making vaccination appointments as early as Sunday.
In a statement, the Immunization Task Force said it would use all installed capacity to immunize 850,000 people per week over the next 14 days to “protect the population as quickly as possible” due to the ” rapid spread “of the Delta variant.
About 70% of cases in Portugal are of the Delta variant, which was first identified in India but has led to a wave of new infections around the world. The variant extends to the whole country, with the Lisbon region and the tourist magnet of the Algarve being the most affected.
Accelerating the rollout of immunization could result in longer queues outside immunization centers, the task force said.
The National Institute of Health, Ricardo Jorge, said in a report that the variant is putting increasing pressure on the healthcare system. More than 500 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized.
A nighttime curfew went into effect on Friday evening in 45 municipalities including Lisbon, Porto and Albufeira, and restaurants and non-food stores are due to close earlier this weekend in some areas. Read more
Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Ros Russell
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